This content is part of the Essential Guide: Conference guide: News and analysis from HIMSS 2014
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Awareness of mHealth puts focus on patient engagement at HIMSS 2014

This year at HIMSS 2014, look for presenters and vendors to stress patient engagement through mobile health technology and workflow.

These days, everyone is talking about patient engagement. Whether you are a provider, a payer or a pharmaceutical company, you want to make sure that patients are engaged with their treatment plans so that healthcare resources are being used effectively and efficiently. A patient who refuses to take medications or patients who do not understand how to self-manage their conditions will use the healthcare system more heavily. So how is health IT playing a role in patient engagement?

At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2014 conference, there will be numerous sessions describing how technology is being leveraged to improve patient engagement. More providers are embracing a patient-centered model of care through the collaborative patient-centered medical home (PCMH). That model relies heavily on IT to improve care coordination, follow-up care and the quality of care delivered to patients. The PCMH model is being employed in both primary care and specialty settings, but widespread adoption has not occurred yet among medical specialists.

Patient engagement care plans will [mean] a decline in health resource utilization because these tools help patients create new habits and change old ones.

Patient engagement is also a growing theme as we see how technology is being integrated into remote health delivery and telemedicine. Telemedicine solutions are being built around highly engaged patients to prevent hospital readmissions and to manage complex chronic conditions like congestive heart disease. Patients who are not engaged do not understand what they need to do after doctor visits and hospital stays.

We have nurses and care managers who are calling them and reminding them to weigh themselves on their connected Wi-Fi scales, to take their medications from their smart pill boxes and to measure their blood pressure using the connected Bluetooth blood pressure monitors. However, when that patient leaves the house and goes to a restaurant or is visiting a friend, he must remain engaged with his health conditions. Otherwise, he risks doing something that will jeopardize all the in-home telemedicine interventions and put him right back in the hospital.

Patient engagement is highly complex because each intervention designed to educate, empower and motivate the patient must be tailored based on medical history, health literacy, cultural background and other conditions that may interfere with the current care plan. We are seeing more mobile devices being used as patient engagement tools because these gadgets can sense and detect when the patient leaves the home. They can track if the patient is eating lunch at a restaurant or walking in a shopping center. They can alert the patient about medication reminders and keep patients directly connected with caregivers and healthcare providers.

Wearable technologies, some of which may be seen at HIMSS 2014, are taking connected health to the next level since some patients leave their mobile device at home or in the car. By having a device that is constantly worn on the body, patients can be empowered in a way that was not possible before.

Some of these connected "wearables" are monitoring biometrics like heart rate and respiration. Others are simply detecting patient movement and sending reminders and alerts. We are seeing an evolution of wearables interacting with mobile devices and other ecosystems of connected health that already exist within the home. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G/4G and near field communication radios and sensors are all working together to keep patients connected like never before.

As health systems and payers leverage these technologies to develop patient engagement care plans, we will see a decline in health resource utilization because these tools will help patients create new habits and change old ones. They will serve as constant, ongoing reminders to keep patients mindful of their disease self-management responsibilities.

About the author:
Joseph Kim is a physician technologist who has a passion for leveraging health IT to improve public health. Dr. Kim is the founder of and is an active social media specialist. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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