Access is Everything

Doctor Patient Communication Improved with Apps and Mobile Devices

Scott Jung Senior Editor, MedGadget
doctor and patient talking

“Take two of these and call me in the morning.”

It’s a familiar phrase that for years has summed up what communication with our doctors is like in terms of how our treatment plan is working. For the most part, this level of communication has served patients well. But often times, this brief command is harder for us to follow than it sounds. We’re forgetful and neglect to take our medication. We sometimes continue to live a lifestyle that doesn’t slow the effects of an illness or even exacerbates it further. Often, we simply decide to leave our doctor out of the picture once we have the medication.

Thankfully, we live in an age where mobile devices have changed the way we communicate with each other, and doctors are also leveraging these devices to change the way they communicate with patients as well. For example, you may already be getting SMS (short message service) text messages reminding you of appointments or prescription refills.

One company, RxApps, has developed a service that takes text messaging far beyond appointment reminders by integrating SMS into a patient’s own custom treatment plan. Because we’re forgetful people, RxApps developed a service that takes text messaging far beyond appointment reminders by integrating SMS into a patient’s own custom treatment plan. Because we’re forgetful people tracked so both doctors and patients can monitor how effectively a treatment plan is working and change it accordingly.

Take for example, a patient suffering from depression who is given a treatment plan of daily medication, more frequent exercise, and less junk food. RxApps can send a daily text message to a patient every day asking if he or she took their medication. It can send another message around the time of day when the patient is exercising at the gym to rate their mood after a workout. It can send another message asking how many scoops of ice cream the patient ate that day. The replies that the patient sends back are recorded and tracked for the patient to see. The doctor can also see these trends and call the patient to personally check in on them. Because it uses SMS, which is widely available, just about any patient with any cell phone can use the service.

Another company that is using mobile technology to improve doctors-patient communication is Ginger.io.

Ginger.io utilizes technologies inside mobile devices to asses a person’s behavior and this so-called passive data is blended with active data collected through surveys and questionnaires. We asked co-founder Anmol Madan to explain.

Anmol Madan

How does Ginger.io work?

Ginger.io’s three-part platform inpatient mobile app, behavioral analytics engine, and provider dashboard gives care providers a window into their patients’ health between office visits. The patient app uses smartphone sensors to collect data about the patient’s sleep, communication, and movement patterns. Our behavioral analytics engine applies machine learning and statistical analysis to detect unusual behavior in a patient’s daily patterns. Any important deviations are then communicated to the provider through the provider dashboard, allowing them to deliver timely interventions to high-risk patients and manage their outreach effectively.

How does it use the patient’s smartphone?

Ginger.io harnesses the power of passive mobile data collected via smartphone sensors. Our smartphones are a digital diary of our lives — 90 percent of us keep our phone within reach 24 hours a day. We currently analyze social interaction, location, and phone usage data to better understand your communication, movement, and behavior respectively. We look for statistical trends in these distributions of behavior, e.g. are you isolating yourself from your community?

What are some of the challenges for adoption of your service by patients?

We’re seeing strong patient adoption and engagement numbers, with 80 percent survey completion rates in some of our programs. Our biggest barrier to adoption is actually getting providers on the other end of the platform fast enough. We currently have patients who are engaged and clinicians who are acting on the data to make better decisions, but we need the support of healthcare institutions, leaders and administrators to bring the two parties together.

We recently launched Mood Matters, a direct-to-consumer depression program, and it is one of our fastest growing programs to date. This program allows us to scale quickly by means of in-app interventions and phone interventions via trained nurses, versus relying on clinical resources.

What interesting findings about people’s health and behavior has the technology revealed?

Across a variety of disease areas, we’re demonstrating a strong improvement in real-time proactive targeting and clinical outreach based on an understanding of patient behavior.

As an example, for a specific population where poor mood and treatment compliance are important concerns, we find that during times of reported poor mood, individuals missed on average almost 2 times as many calls and travelled substantially less than usual. These are examples from just one specific study but we’re developing incredible signatures of behavior across all of our clinical programs.

What’s the story behind the name Ginger.io?

In Asian and Indian cultures, ginger (the spice) has a popular positive connotation with preventative health and wellness (e.g., ginger lemon tea). We felt that connotation was a great way to communicate the wellness and prevention aspects envisioned by the team.

 

Ever since he had an atresia surgically repaired at age five, Scott Jung has been fascinated with the field of medical science. Combining his love of consumer electronics and technology with medicine, he studied biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California and graduated in 2009. By day, Scott is a Technical Services Engineer at St. Jude Medical, but moonlights as a senior editor at Medgadget, a leading medical technology and innovation blog. Scott is always searching for the next big thing in medical technology and digital health and looks forward to sharing these life-transforming innovations with iQ by Intel’s audience.

Images by Ginger.io

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