Some providers are turning to outside companies to help them manage all that data so they can easily access it, make sense of it, and use it to keep their patients healthier during all the time outside of office and hospital visits. In part, providers are responding to patient demand.
"Patients are going to have wearable devices," said Rita Bowen, vice president of privacy, compliance and health information management policy for software and services firm MRO, "and they're going to present that data." She then echoed Kauffman's sentiment: "The problem comes from flowing that data into an EHR."
While Fitbit offers an application programming interface to bring data into care management dashboards, other companies are pulling data from devices that capture more traditional health-related measurements, such as blood glucose, weight and blood pressure.
"Something that could be a driver of a fast growth rate around wearables is that there's a clear reimbursement model" for providers, Kauffman said. But right now, patients are still paying out of pocket for a lot of these devices, he said.
Nevertheless, some providers are actually prescribing these devices to their patients. Activity trackers, for instance, can be used in diabetes and obesity treatment, Kvedar said.
Once the information is captured, though, it has to become useful.
"We control the flow of the data," said Eric Rock, CEO of Vivify Health, a company that pulls data from connected devices, processes the information and integrates it into workflows in EHR systems, with the goal of making the data efficient to use.
"This is important to reduce the overall workload, while increasing patient volume and improving outcomes and satisfaction," Rock said. On some EHR systems, for instance, providers can get alerts. When a provider clicks on an alert, he or she sees risk indicators created by algorithmic analysis. "We manage the efficacy of the data, because these clinical programs are gathering the right information at the right time from these devices," Rock said.
Hospital systems like Sutter Health are using patient-collected data to try to improve care for Type 2 diabetics as part of an Accenture-led pilot program for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology exploring how patient-generated data can be used. The hospital has been tapping technology from digital health company Validic to bring patient-generated health data from a Sutter patient app into its existing EHR system.
"Clinicians and care managers could look every day at not just how an individual patient was doing, but also at a risk-stratified patient list," said Validic CEO Drew Schiller. Patients, too, got feedback.
Accenture Federal Services will respond to the pilot with a final white paper to guide federal policy on the use of patient-generated health data after the pilot, which ended in September.
Some EHR vendors, meanwhile, are giving clinicians an in-EHR view of wearables data by processing the data themselves. EClinicalWorks, for instance, incorporates data from consumer devices, such as weight scales and blood-pressure cuffs. In the future, the platform will include a clinical rules engine that helps physicians manage the influx of data. "That allows physicians to make better decisions during the appointment itself," said eClinicalWorks Vice President Sam Bhat.
Indeed, successful use of patient-generated data won't supplant office visits; instead, it will complement them, Kvedar said.
"There are ways for us in the near-term future to build these programs in a way that doesn't interfere with those 10 minutes you get with your doctor, but extends it into your life as a continuous function," he said. "This is a very important part of healthcare delivery, and we'll get there because of the popularity of wearables."