Healthcare providers, such as Texas Back Institute, have discovered a new tool for helping patients get better faster, and it has nothing to do with a new drug or medical device. It is engagement technology, such as mobile devices and secured electronic health record apps, which allow patients to understand their condition and treatment and gain peace of mind.
It has been noted by many healthcare technology media, including “Health IT Outcomes” that patient engagement technology, “which refers to the tools and actions taken by patients, caregivers and healthcare providers to promote informed decision making and behaviors to facilitate improved health outcomes,” has become a very important healthcare strategy. While this trend has been researched and discussed by the medical profession for several years, its relevancy should surprise no one. As a wise person once said, “just look at the numbers.”
Here are some statistics from leading search engine Google and Pew Research that support the impact technology is having on patient engagement.
- There are 4.7 billion daily Google searches
- 1 in 20 Google searches is for health-related information
- 80 percent of internet users seek online health information
- 77 percent of patients used a search prior to booking an appointment
- 66 percent of internet users look online for information about a specific disease or medical problem
- 44 percent of internet users look online for information about doctors or other health professionals
According to “Health IT Outcomes,” consumers are becoming more trusting of healthcare information online. Social media and patient portal use for healthcare data have also seen significant growth. We are living in a connected and engaged society. The internet allows us to get what we want on demand at our fingertips. Patients and consumers have started placing these same expectations on healthcare.
Those involved in the practice of marketing in such industries as retail, banking and other service industries have long used “consumer engagement” in the form of product tips and other information to create better customer experiences. This strengthens the relationship between the customer and the company or product. The practice of medicine and the delivery of healthcare have started to adopt this strategy.
This trend toward technology-enabled patient engagement is not lost on one of the most successful technology companies of all time – Apple. In a report published in the technology newsletter “TechCrunch,” it was noted that “Apple has made great strides in health in the last few years, and if it gets its way, there will be an iPad in the hands of every hospital patient.”
The article continued by noting that “doctors are already adept at using mobile devices and many have been using iPads in their practices for a number of years, but allowing patients’ access to their own information is still a novel idea in the medical world. Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles has been ahead of the curve with the creation of its electronic health records (EHR) software, My CS-Link, which allows patients to look up their information online, including notes from their doctor.”
Surgical procedures, such as those performed by the spine specialists at Texas Back Institute, are often anxiety provoking to patients, and the practice has been working on patient engagement strategies to ameliorate this concern.
Technology Helps Tame Anxiety of Surgery
Cheryl Zapata, who is the chief development officer of Texas Back Institute and a self-described “technology geek,” is a strong proponent for using technology to help patients understand their condition and treatment.
“When patients are aware of their condition and impending procedure, they are more likely to handle the stress of surgery better than someone who has no idea what to expect,” she said. “In a 2016 study conducted by TBI, we found that patients who went through patient education reduced their anxiety on a “State -Trait Anxiety Inventory” (STAI) from a score of 40 to 31.6. This shows that a comprehensive pre-surgical education program can significantly decrease the patient’s anxiety level.
“For our surgical patients, we utilize a 30-minute education video. We offer 30 minutes of one-on-one with a surgical trainer and, in some cases, a tour of the hospital where the procedure will be taking place.
“While mobile devices, such as patient iPads, are not currently being used for patient education, we have started utilizing surgical videos, including 360 VR videos, for prospective patients who are online researching spine surgery. This gives them a better understanding of what will happen during surgery and an inside view from the operating room. After reviewing the videos, patients often make comments that the operating room was calmer than they expected. They were also more comfortable with how much of their body would be exposed and that there was less blood loss than they thought resulting from the procedure. In general, most patients find the entire process fascinating.”
Why Does Technology-Enabled Patient Engagement Help TBI Realize Positive Outcomes?
“Anecdotally, mobile device-based patient education tools patients are preferred by patients to learn more about the type of procedure they need,” Zapata said. “We can show the patient anything from animation to actual surgical video on what the procedure consists of, what the patient can expect from surgery and what recovery will look like. This knowledge helps physicians and nurses deliver better care because many questions have been answered before the procedure and reasonable expectations have been set for the patients.”
This technological patient engagement also helps with recuperation.
“There are several studies that have been done recently regarding the use of virtual reality technology and how it helps to decrease pain in hospitalized patients,” she said. “In one study at Cedars-Sinai, 50 patients who used virtual reality therapy to watch calming content reported a 24 percent drop in pain scores. I expect there will be more studies like this over the next few years, which will show how powerful digital tools can be in patient education, reducing anxiety and decreasing pain.”
The spine specialists and researchers at Texas Back Institute have been a part of 40 years of medical and technological advances, all of which are designed to ensure the best possible outcomes and patient satisfaction.
If you would like to set an appointment to discuss your back pain, contact us.