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All I Got for Christmas was a New Digital Health App

Posted on December 26, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Last week, I wrote that “All I Want for Christmas is a Doctor’s Appointment.” Turns out what I got – a flu-like cold – put that need into perspective. As luck would have it, I had recently read an article by fellow Healthcarescene.com blogger Neil Versel about AskMD, a new app from the folks at Sharecare. Being a mother of two children who are both in school, and thus exposed to their fair share of colds, I thought I’d get good use out of the symptom checker, which Versel explains, enables users to “choose which symptoms they are feeling and then see which potential health issues they might have. The app then walks the user through a “consultation” in which the app will ask the user a series of questions to identify more specifically what the symptom feels like, when it started, and if there are any other symptoms accompanying it. After the “consultation,” the user can enter in any information about medications that they are taking. When users have finished entering information, AskMD generates a list of potential problems the user might have ordered by the commonality of the potential problems.”

Before rushing to try and make an appointment with my local primary care physician during Christmas break, I decided to give AskMD a whirl. Anything that could potentially save me a co-pay, crowding into a waiting room with other sick folks, and then ultimately being told by my kindly nurse practitioner that the only treatment is rest and fluids, would be beneficial. After entering in an initial main symptom, the app took me through a series of 19 questions, resulting in a list of 11 possible causes, plus a link to find physicians and prepare for my visit. The list of physicians was helpful, and I was surprised to see that Cartersville Medical Center, where I had surgery over the summer, sponsored the results. It’s promising to see small, community hospitals are recognizing the importance of digital health tools.

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While a nasty cold wasn’t something I had bargained for over the holiday, it’s nice to know that a digital health app can bring me some peace of mind as I decide whether to treat my symptoms at home, or ultimately go into the doctor’s office. What digital health app did this Christmas bring your way? Or perhaps a new EMR was on your wish list? Let me know what health IT tools you’ll be ringing in the new year with in the comments below.

Don’t Count on Your EMR to Master Patient Engagement

Posted on November 14, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

So said one tweet in the recent stream from the Health IT Leadership Summit, an event I’ve been heavily involved in organizing for the last 10 months.

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That particular statement came from the morning keynote by Jeff Arnold, CEO of Sharecare. Arnold, who also founded WebMD, spoke to the power of social networking and analytics as part of a broader patient engagement strategy. It was a sentiment expressed in nearly every session I attended that day, by hospital and vendor executives alike.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by the importance engagement played in the Summit’s sessions and networking discussions. It’s certainly the topic du jour of industry media and seems to weigh heavily on the minds of healthcare providers. Everyone wants to know, how do we do this? How can we get patients to truly engage, beyond tracking a few numbers on the latest digital health gizmo? How can we get providers to engage as well? Sending and receiving secure emails is great, but effective patient engagement that directly affects outcomes could be so much more than that.

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If sessions and conversations at the Summit were any indication, the key will be to combine traditional patient data (like that found in an EMR), with data mined from social networks, and then filter that through big data tools for predictive analysis. Much easier written or tweeted about than achieved, I assume, but it’s a positive sign all the same.

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That’s very true, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a CIO who says they DON’T care. After listening to several hospital executives speak at the Summit, I got the impression that they care immensely, but aren’t quite sure where to turn for technology and processes that will enable their organizations to interpret engagement data into actionable knowledge.

Take a look Storified Twitter insight from the Summit via “#HealthITSummit Sessions Spotlight Social’s Role in Patient Engagement,” and then let me know via the comments below which healthcare organizations seem to be heading in the right direction when it comes to social analytics and patient engagement.