Wearable devices and remote portals that gather health data directly from patients have become powerful tools for providers.
These technologies, which track measures such as blood pressure, activity level, weight and pain, enable health systems to obtain clearer views of their patients’ health. That’s why providers such as Mayo Clinic and Baptist Health made it a priority to collect data captured by patients outside of a clinical setting.
“What we’re realizing, especially in primary care, is the importance of all that additive data,” said Aaron Miri, senior vice president and chief digital and information officer at Jacksonville, Florida-based Baptist Health. “These things are feeding into social determinants, which are really telling our clinicians how healthy a patient is.”
Baptist Health uses health data that patients generate on a case-by-case basis, typically in the oncology and cardiology departments, to manage chronic conditions outside the hospital, Miri said. The health system offers some patients take-home devices that store health data and monitor critical measures such as electrocardiogram readings.
Clinical integration of patient data
Health systems are engaged in trial and error to find the most effective and valuable ways to integrate patient-generated health data into clinical operations.
Organizing data from disparate sources in one place can help prevent medical errors and improve patient care, said Dr. Doug McKee, chief medical information officer at Rockledge, Florida-based Health First.
“The long-term vision is having a single source of truth where the patient’s data are integrated seamlessly—from wearables, from their day-to-day routines and from all of the providers they see—into a patient-centered record,” McKee said.
To do this successfully, providers have identified key elements: Patients need to be educated about how to collect the data; clinical staff and software developers must work in partnership; the right data points need to be determined; and regulations must be understood and followed. And data-recording technology can’t replace physicians’ medical judgment.
Clinicians accessing the data also need to evaluate its usefulness and accuracy to determine how to best use it to guide care and treatment decisions, said Miri, who is co-chair of the Health and Human Services Department’s Health Information Technology Advisory Committee.
Different sources of patient health data should be integrated into electronic health records and clinical workflows as much as possible while remaining available in a single system for easier clinician access, McKee said.
As a practicing family doctor, McKee said it isn’t useful to receive a bulky report with thousands of blood pressure readings because valuable information can get lost in the noise. Instead, using technology and artificial intelligence to identify the most critical data points can help to alleviate provider burnout and alert fatigue, he said.