Making the Case for Patient-Generated EHR Data

Author: John Hargreaves, Consultant

The proliferation of wearable and mobile health devices from Fitbit, Apple Health, Google Fit, Nokia Health/Withings and others is bringing patient-generated data into the digital health fold. Health-savvy patients amassing this information are increasingly looking for ways to share the data with their providers.

Epic is one Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendor looking to bridge the gap between patients’ device app data and the patient health record. Patients can integrate data tracked on Apple iPhone devices into Epic’s MyChart patient portal; with an active MyChart account, patients can sync data such as weight, steps, pulse, blood pressure, and more back to the EHR for providers to review.

For example, let’s say I am a patient with hypertension and I’m on a new medication. I’m interested in monitoring how that medication impacts my health over the next month. Epic’s Apple integration enables me to track my vital signs daily for a month and share that information with my provider without the requirement of an in-office visit or sending the information via fax or postal mail. The data captured via my smartphone will already be with my provider by the time I have my next follow-up visit.

The Benefits of a Patient-Generated Data Strategy

Technology that supports bringing patient-sourced data into healthcare assessments poses benefits to both providers and patients. Providers can more easily track and monitor patients between visits. This offers clinicians a fuller picture of a patient’s health beyond lab results, problem lists, allergies, and medications. Patient lifestyle data beyond the walls of institutionalized care can reveal where patients are doing well and where there is room for improvement.

Patient involvement in personal health monitoring between visits promotes patient accountability in reaching health goals. If I’m an overweight patient with a weight reduction goal, for example, my doctor can recommend I use a Fitbit that allows me to track step data. I can routinely review that data and provide feedback to my provider with real-time updates on whether I’m reaching my daily goals or not.

Wearables and personal tracking devices drive patient accountability with empirical data that is captured automatically. Patients become more active participants in their health and in the creation of their health record.

Both patients and providers benefit from improved access to quantifiable health information. Shared visibility into patient health trends over time improves patient access and engagement, mitigates trust issues, and strengthens the patient/provider relationship.

Considerations When Integrating Patient-Generated Data

hile the integration of patient-sourced data into EHRs poses clear patient engagement and accountability wins, implementing this exchange of information does come with unique challenges. Here are a few key considerations healthcare organizations need to address along their journey.

Patient awareness. Promoting the availability of device data integration is key to usage. To build awareness some healthcare organizations may set up “health bars” in waiting rooms or lobbies to offer patients a tangible experience of offerings. These health bars typically feature devices like iPads, iPhones, and Fitbits with information on the various integration points available to patients.

Patient technical aptitude. Another hurdle healthcare organizations may face when rolling out device data integration is patient technical aptitude. Support teams dedicated to helping less tech-savvy patients successfully sync devices can help drive adoption.

 Provider adoption. Driving provider awareness and adoption of device data integration is another challenge healthcare organizations may need to tackle. Clinicians need to be aware of the offering, how to make it available to their patients, and how to use the information when received. Educating providers on the how, what and why through tip sheets, medical staff meetings, and other venues is essential.

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Healthcare organizations are continually seeking to further engage patients outside the office. EHR integration with patient devices is a smart step down the path to further patient engagement. Advancements in technology from companies like Epic and Apple can also help providers meet value-based care goals and improve patient outcomes.