Tweet Chat Review: The Growth of Connected Care

Last week I had the honor of moderating the weekly #HITsm (Health IT social media) chat on Twitter. This regular discussion about health IT issues is a wonderful forum for addressing what steps need to be taken to move healthcare technology forward on a number of fronts.

The topic of my chat was The Growth of Connected Care, and focused on defining the terms, sharing trends and identifying successful characteristics of a connected care program. I enjoyed the banter and the great questions that came my way during the chat and learned quite a bit about what the climate is like for overcoming obstacles to adopting connected care.  You can see the transcript of the entire chat here.

To recap the conversation, below are the questions that were asked during the chat and my brief answers.

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Connected care is a broad term – what does it mean?

Generally, connected care applies to leveraging technology to connect patients, providers, and caregivers. Increasingly, this is happening in real-time. Connected care extends care outside of the traditional hospital setting and moves healthcare from episodic events to more continuous care that is tailored specifically for the patient.

What market trends are driving connected care?

A few trends are driving connected care forward. First, new Internet of Things (IoT) technology (devices-datacenter) are making connected care possible for patients. Think about wearables and the massive amount of data that can be acquired that influences care; this is the cornerstone of connected care.

Second, payment reform and payment models are changing from fee-for-service to value-based. As payment models change, patient retention becomes increasingly important for clinicians. This is the consumerization of healthcare, where the patient takes charge of their own health and the care is on a regular, on-going basis.

Finally, healthcare technology investments in digital platforms have opened the opportunity to create and consume new data streams in real-time.

What technologies are enabling connected care?

For starters, big data technologies, both software and hardware, are enabling us to work with the high volume, variety, and velocity of connected care data. Wearables and sensors are also evolving, and newer devices are delivering more value in improved form factors.

What are characteristics of a successful connected care program?

Successful connected care programs have clear clinical and business goals, know the problems that need to be solved, have measurable outcomes and clear value propositions, and feature scalable architecture for data ingestion, storage, analysis, and visualization.

Programs must be patient-centric and look holistically at both patient and care team touch points throughout the continuum of care. They also need a strategy for transforming data into actionable/comprehensible insights delivered at the right time, to the right person. This is often overlooked – insights for providers or patient instructions get lost in poor visualization. This is why the UI/UX aspect of connected care is so critical.

Where is connected care headed, and what are some things to watch for?

Expect larger connected care programs with employers, payers, and care providers to reach consumers and tie engagement to financial outcomes. It will be interesting to see how employees respond and how the employer/employee relationship is re-written to include health-related activities.

Population health programs will go through a three step evolution of understanding, predicting, and then preventing (UPP). Step one is simply understanding what data is available and identifying/filling gaps. The second stage of program maturity involves using data to being predicting outcomes for specific populations. This stage involves iterating through models to improve specificity both for target outcomes and population boundaries.

The third stage is using the predictions to implement real programs that prevent target outcomes from occurring. This stage will partially rely on human-centered care delivery, but it will also push the boundaries of virtual medicine in response to access and delivery constraints that inevitably arise.

On the downside, large data breaches look inevitable in the future as more devices allow for more attack vectors. The big unknown is how this will impact the industry and consumers.

What are some of the short- and long-term obstacles to adoption of connected care programs?

The business models for connected care are still evolving. New payment and reimbursement pathways are needed to create growth. Sustainable, long-term patient engagement is a challenge. Hopefully, healthcare will continue to look to industries that have pioneered techniques for data-driven high-touch consumer engagement (consumer goods, SaaS internet companies, etc.) and apply those learnings to developing new strategies to engage patients. Finally, federal and state regulation must continue to evolve because connected care operates across traditional geographic boundaries and models of care delivery.