Geisinger: Successes and challenges of texting with patients
Forget all the new toys, smartwatches and fitness bracelets. If you want to win the attention of your patients, use a cellphone and a text message.
That's Chanin Wendling's philosophy — and it's working.
As the director of the Division of Applied Research and Clinical Informatics at the Geisinger Health System, Wendling is running a number of text-messaging programs for the Pennsylvania health system that have shown better outcomes than simply posting things on the system's patient portal and waiting for people to take notice.
"I believe that it has been absolutely overshadowed by all the cool stuff," Wendling said. "And it's so easy and inexpensive."
Wendling will talk about her successes – and the challenges in establishing and maintaining mHealth programs like this – in a HIMSS15 session next week.
Among Wendling's successes is a text-messaging program designed to remind patients of upcoming appointments. When the program was announced, roughly 200,000 of the estimated 550,000 active Geisinger patient population signed up to receive the text messages, and early returns have shown a decrease of as much as 2 percent in missed appointments, especially among younger members.
Chandling said she's seen success with text-messaging programs for weight management and has just launched one that focuses on diabetes management. She's also working on pilots for medication management, pain management and wellness.
But this isn't all just about text-messaging. Chandling plans on talking about a general mHealth program for patient engagement that spans all of the hot-button topics these days, from messages and mobile apps to wearables.
"We're going so far beyond the traditional pen-and-paper-and-phone methods,” Wendling said. “And finding new and better ways to connect with patients the way they want to be reached."
One of the challenges, in fact, is to get providers to understand these new methods of engagement. "I think we still have some work to do on understanding what will make this worthwhile for the patient," she said. "We need to think of them first – this is patient engagement, not doctor engagement."
And, of course, in this brave new world of smartphones and smartwatches and wearable devices, she said, one needs to have a little fun.
Be entertaining and non-traditional. "To influence patient behavior, you need to look around and try new things,” Wendling said. “Sometimes the fact that it makes people better is not enough."
The session "Active Patient Engagement: mHealth as a Tool for Interaction," runs from 10:45-11:45 a.m. Sunday, April 12, in Room S102. It's part of the Mobile Health Symposium, running from 8:15 a.m - 4:15 p.m on Sunday at HIMSS15 in Chicago’s McCormick Place.