Engaging a single patient in their health can be challenging, especially when that patient is somewhat isolated or solely responsible for managing their healthcare. Social isolation is talked about a lot these days and recently, while reviewing data gathered in a pilot program, I was able to uncover evidence to the point.
During a MobileHelp pilot study a few years ago, I noticed a concerning shift in patient engagement. The pilot study included more than a dozen individuals. They were given a MobileHelp Remote Patient Monitoring System, and a few Bluetooth enabled peripherals – a weight scale, blood pressure monitor and a pulse-oxygen saturation monitor. A home health nurse assisted in identifying potential participants for the study and answering their questions about the devices.
The study started in June and ran through the next Spring. The questions the pilot study was to answer were: “Given access to devices to measure their own health, will patients monitor their health consistently on their own, will they be satisfied and confident with monitoring their own health and will their perception of safety improve when they track their health statistics?”
Every week, I compiled a list for each patient of what vitals were taken, and how often. I focused on whether participants were consistently measuring their vitals. I looked at the time of day they took their readings, how long they had been in the pilot, whether they were male or female, their age, and their initial condition.
The overall results were a huge success – almost all the participants noted a huge increase in their perceived well-being. They reported that they enjoyed taking their vitals. Many of the participants took the results to their doctors, and reported their doctors enjoyed seeing consistent readings. At the end of the study 47% of the participants reported they were more confident about managing their own health than before the study. We also saw an 18% increase in their activity level. Participants reported feeling healthier after the pilot study than before.
When I started compiling results of the study, I noticed some dips in the consistency of the daily readings among all the patients. We already knew after several months of no contact or support, many people will begin to lose their consistency in taking their vitals readings. I began to look deeper into the dips and noticed that when I changed the reference from “number of weeks into the pilot” to “actual calendar date”, all the dips were happening during the same time of year – right after the
Thanksgiving holiday, right after Christmas, and right after New Year’s. It appears that during times when families gather, the patients were encouraged to take their readings, because the data showed participants were more consistent with taking their daily vitals during these times. But after the holidays, when family has left, the motivation left as well. As for New Year’s Day – that compliance lift may have been boosted by resolutions for the new year, only to fall off a few weeks later.
As with our own new year goals, a little encouragement can be helpful to staying on track. A simple phone call from the overseeing nurse, asking, “How are you doing on taking your readings daily?” was all that was needed to get the participants back on track. The connected health platform created a communication feedback loop that reduced social isolation, improved patient adherence, and kept patients engaged.
Technology alone is not the answer. Technology that connects people shows real promise in helping a patient stay connected with their clinical teams and caregivers. With the right technology clinicians are notified when a patient needs attention and caregivers and family can also access their loved one’s health data to stay informed. That opens up a lot of opportunities to let the patient know they are not alone in their care. And it reinforces the message that their health is important and to stay on the right track!
Good luck with your goals this year!