Connected health: An emerging driver to deliver on healthcare's Triple Aim

While many organizations are already beginning to reach their triple-aim goals, the industry still has a long way to go.
By Ryan Beckland
06:33 AM

The "triple aim" is the accepted and preeminent goal for healthcare organizations across the country. As this collective industry ambition moves from theory to practice, leaders strive to implement initiatives that will improve quality of care, enhance patient experiences and reduce costs. To execute on these initiatives quickly and efficiently, healthcare organizations are implementing connected-health strategies to better manage patients and care delivery.

Connected-health initiatives that incorporate telemedicine, digital-health devices and remote-monitoring solutions are an increasingly popular and effective solution to keep patients healthy and out of clinical facilities. Providers can integrate patient data from these devices throughout the care continuum to truly power better outcomes and engagement. Not only are payers providing incentives to implement such initiatives but patients also are encouraging their providers to adopt these programs. In fact, more than 75 percent of patients have expressed interest in telemedicine services, according to study conducted by Healthcare Informatics earlier this year.

Patient interest combined with financial incentives have led many healthcare organizations to successfully launch a number of connected-health programs:  

·      Kaiser Permanente is utilizing telemedicine-video services that enable patients to quickly access emergency physicians and, therefore, avoid a trip to the emergency department for minor ailments.

·      Partners Healthcare is working with iGetBetter to utilize digital-health devices to monitor heart-failure patients outside of the hospital – and has already reduced heart failure-related hospital readmissions by 50 percent.

·      The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has developed an application to engage Crohn's Disease and Colitis patients in their treatment. The app enables patients to track their symptoms with digital-health devices, view associated trends and then make better, more informed decisions about treatment options.

Data that delivers

While the convenience of these remote-monitoring and telehealth programs provide an obvious allure for patients, the associated data with these initiatives is ultimately the key driver to help providers reach the triple aim and drive ROI. Without patient-generated data, physicians are narrowly limited in their view of patients' health. They can only view and record measurements taken within the four walls of the healthcare facility, or they need to rely on patients to accurately recall their activities and routines for the past several weeks or months.

Access to patient-generated data from digital-health devices, however, provides verifiable, real-time updates that can help physicians better manage patients and lead to improved patient outcomes. When receiving data in real time, clinicians can analyze patient progress and intervene before a negative health event; this can also be automated with analytic and business intelligence software. In addition, when patient-generated data is combined with electronic medical record (EMR) data, clinicians then have a holistic view into patient activities within and outside of the provider setting. In fact, research recently released from Parks Associates confirms that healthcare professionals see EMR and device-generated data as the two most valuable data sources for the healthcare industry.  Such data supports the delivery of personalized medicine and value-based care.

While many organizations are already beginning to reach their triple-aim goals via connected-health strategies, the industry still has a long way to go. A recent global survey published by Validic, finds that nearly 59% of organizations indicated that they were behind in their digital-health strategy. As 2016 quickly approaches, we must collectively move forward as an industry to work toward better outcomes, patient experiences and reduced costs. Organizations that have not launched a connected-health strategy and integrated patient-generated data into their clinical decision-making or care-delivery routine will be at a large disadvantage when trying to achieve the "triple aim."

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