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To make the most of the shrinking window of time physicians spend interacting directly with patients (as few as eight minutes these days), more doctors and clinicians are turning to point-of-care applications. According to a report from Epocrates, 86 percent of physicians have adopted various digital health applications to support patient education and interaction. With new apps debuting almost daily, it seems the very best distinguish themselves in two ways.
The patient education piece
A clear, specific function
Physicians need a way to simplify complicated medical information, using tools and templates customized for each patient across a broad population. Visual tools should clearly demonstrate a patient’s condition, and enable secure sharing with the patient and other healthcare team members.
Apps should also fit the “80/20 Rule.” There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. They should cover as much of the content needed as possible while still leaving sufficient flexibility for customization to fit the specific needs of the physician.
Usable and fast
Waiting more than a few seconds for a point-of-care app to load during an appointment won’t work. Even worse, if the app crashes and needs to be pulled back up, a significant portion of the available time in the physician-patient interaction is lost. These things have to work, every time, and quickly.
Traditional software measures success by keeping users in their apps as long as possible. The best point-of-care app, however, strives to minimize the time users spend within it on a per-patient interaction basis, while effectively achieving its goals.
High-value, clinically valid content
Peer-reviewed, painstakingly researched clinical guidelines based on the latest science take years to develop. They are the gold standard for content by which care is administered. But they don’t need to take years to deliver or operationalize in the field. Physicians and clinicians across the globe need access to the latest clinical guidelines at the point of care to ensure treatment decisions are informed by the best science has to offer.
The differentiator: synchronizing patient education with decision support (the digital health PB&J)
Simultaneously operationalizing clinical-practice guidelines and delivering patient education through physicians and clinicians at the point of care is what’s next. It’s time to put the peanut butter and jelly together.
The best patient care plan won’t work if the patient doesn’t understand how the plan works, doesn’t understand the implications of adherence (or, more importantly, non-adherence), and doesn’t confidently follow through. Similarly, a 100-percent compliant patient doesn’t produce desired outcomes if the treatment plan doesn’t follow consistent guidelines.
Within the interaction between physician and patient exists an information exchange of the highest importance. It sets the wheels in motion for all of the possible treatment choices and courses. The common goal (especially in cases like prostate cancer treatment), is to maximize the odds of success. The best way to do that is to enable physicians to make choices based on sound science with an educated, confident patient. The patient needs to understand the course of treatment and precisely how important it is to adhere to the plan to achieve the best outcome. Combined with implementation of the latest evidence-based protocols, the most efficient course of care for all involved (including payers) should materialize.
In the broadest sense, digital health apps do not solve a technical problem, but often a human problem. How then does the healthcare team as a whole humanize complicated material including the latest clinical guidelines and care planning? How do they communicate it to the patient and improve outcomes for the entire continuum of parties concerned?
The answer can only be found, and the PB&J enjoyed, when physicians, clinical associations, researchers, and manufacturers partner to find solutions to that problem in a mutual quest for better healthcare outcomes and experiences.
John Cox is the president and CEO of Visible Health.