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The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Annual Conference

Population Health, Engagament and Patient Portals
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The 2017 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference – commonly known as HiMSS –  was another huge conference that covered so much it was a bit overwhelming.  The number of presentations and vendor booths was incredible and the opportunity to review company IT offerings and network was amazing.

Population Health and Engagement were still major buzzwords at this year’s conference and I had the opportunity to review several of the population health management systems developed by major EMR companies and other vendors.

The focus of these platforms was still on registry type information with the ability to drill down for the doctor, nurse care manager or other.  This year many of the vendors highlighted their new dashboards and other graphical interfaces.  In reviewing these systems and speaking with others, we saw little evidence of user-friendly workflows or for that matter, any real attention paid to the patient.

From the patient perspective, while many of the platforms included patient portals that provided data, a communications component and some patient education – these components were not well thought out and clearly not engaging enough to sustain long term interaction.

In a population health based approach, the patient needs to be actively involved and engaged when they are not at the physician’s office. One of the components of this engagement strategy should be a portal with a solid user experience and relevant information. From years of research along with knowledge gleaned from the retail industry, we know what engages and activates people. Based on this knowledge, these portals should include a stronger focus on the look and feel of the site, the overall patient experience and flow, and leverage gamification, games and behavioral economics.

One simple way to “plug and play” these types of feature sets into the patient portal and add prescribed education to population health programs would be to integrate the EdLogics Platform.

The EdLogics platform greatly increases engagement and incentivizes interaction and learning wherever and whenever the patient is available, providing the education needed to change behaviors.

EdLogics Founder and CEO Tom Chamberlain was interviewed at HiMSS. Listen to the interview here.

Learn more about HiMSS.

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Fred Goldstein is the founder and president of Accountable Health, LLC, a healthcare consulting firm focused on population health. He has over 30 years of experience in population health, disease management, HMO and hospital operations. He is an expert in population health, care management...read more

Win-Win: How Healthcare Gamification Helps Companies and Employees

Playing to learn is one path toward improved health literacy—and lower healthcare costs.
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In 2012, Tom Chamberlain, PharmD, founded EdLogics, our gamified health education platform. Recently he shared how he first got the idea from working with patients, and the results so far.

Let’s start with your background. You began your career as a pharmacist, right?

Right. As a PharmD and an entrepreneur, I’ve been involved in starting and growing a number of companies, all of them focused on healthcare education and improving the utilization of healthcare services. My primary objective has always been to improve clinical outcomes and reduce healthcare costs for consumers and payors of healthcare services.

And how did you get the idea for EdLogics?

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to manage my own patients during my doctor of pharmacy program and residency training. Having firsthand experience treating patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and COPD, I knew the challenges of educating and engaging patients in the self-management of their conditions. Traditional educational strategies such as pamphlets and printouts weren’t effective in teaching patients what they needed to know to improve their conditions.

For people with diabetes, testing blood sugar is a routine part of managing their condition. If you’re injecting insulin or using a pump, you may have to test several times a day. Without accurate blood sugar tests, you might not get the right amount of insulin at the right times.

If you can’t measure your blood sugar, you can’t control it. And if you can’t control your blood sugar, you raise your risk of amputations, heart attacks, blindness, erectile dysfunction, and many other problems. One immediate risk is diabetic ketoacidosis, which comes on quickly and can be fatal. Even if you survive, your ER trip will cost thousands of dollars. And it all can be avoided with appropriate education.

Many patients seem to understand how to check their blood sugar once someone shows them. But it was clear to me that most of my patients had forgotten what they’d learned by their next visit. They still weren’t retaining the information needed to manage their diabetes.

This happened over and over again – and similar scenarios occurred with a number of patients with various chronic conditions. I realized we’d never be able to help our patients if we couldn’t find a better way to teach them what to do.

Is that where health literacy comes in?

Yes, but a lot of people aren’t familiar with the term. Here’s one definition:

“Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

Or to put it more simply:

“Health literacy means you can find and understand the information you need to make good decisions about your health.”

Low health literacy is now recognized as a critical barrier to effective and efficient healthcare. It’s an enormous problem, and the consequences are far-reaching. For instance, did you know that compared to patients with adequate health literacy, patients with low health literacy have:

  • 40% higher risk of going to the emergency room
  • 55% higher risk of hospitalization from asthma
  • 3 times more heart failure hospitalizations
  • and 3 times greater odds of 30-day readmission for patients over age 64

In fact, the cost of low health literacy in the US is somewhere between $106 billion and $238 billion per year. It’s unreal!

If we want to improve health outcomes and lower healthcare costs, we need a way to reach consumers – a way that works for them long term.

So how does EdLogics help?

Since I started working in the healthcare industry, the concept of health literacy has matured into an academic discipline. Institutions like Vanderbilt University have devoted teams of talented experts and researchers—like Russell Rothman, MD, MPP, arguably one of the top health literacy experts in the world—to help healthcare providers, employers, payors, and the public understand the implications of low health literacy—and develop effective solutions to address this major healthcare issue.

At EdLogics, we’ve teamed up with many leading academic medical centers and Centers of Excellence (CoE), as well as industry thought leaders like Dr. Rothman and former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Governor Tommy Thompson, to identify specific ways to improve health literacy.

The first step is to make learning fun and engaging. To do this, we employ and work with experienced clinicians, developers, designers, and gamification experts to create stimulating, engaging games that educate users on important health topics, from diabetes to the Zika virus, all developed with the low health literate user in mind.

To keep users coming back, we’ve developed innovative gamification and unique incentive strategies where users earn rewards by playing games and completing educational activities.

Employers can purchase a customized version of the platform, enabling employees and their families to play, learn, and win. And the cost is minimal: roughly $20 a year per family.

What have you seen so far?

I’m very proud of our platform. It’s a product that educates consumers about chronic diseases, common medical conditions, general health, well-being, medications, and how to navigate the healthcare system. We’ve heard inspiring testimonials from employers and employees, and we have impressive statistics on knowledge improvement and consumer engagement. In fact, 100% of users improve their knowledge of a given condition after completing our learning activities, and 79% of users say they will change their behavior based on what they learned.

We’re continuously making enhancements, all with a focus on improving consumer engagement. That’s the key to being able to influence positive behavior change and deliver the most important, lifesaving knowledge. Not to mention the opportunity to reduce pain and suffering – both physical and financial.

Bookmark this blog and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. We’ll be publishing posts on the crisis of low health literacy and how to help address it. Want to learn more? Request a demo of the EdLogics platform.

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Thomas M. Chamberlain, PharmD, is Founder and CEO of EdLogics, an education-based consumer engagement company that provides innovative health education and learning management solutions to employers, health plans, healthcare providers, and government entities...read more

5 Groups of People Who Should Care About Health Literacy

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A doctor prescribes an antibiotic for a toddler’s first ear infection. Eager to help their daughter, the girl’s parents pick up the medication on their way home. Frantically, they open the bottle and start to pour the thick pink liquid into the crying child’s ear.

The problem: It should have gone in her mouth.

This story is a classic in the health literacy community. While obvious errors like this aren’t the norm, millions of patients do make dangerous healthcare mistakes every year.

One important reason: 90 million American adults have limited health literacy. That means they have trouble finding, understanding, and using health information to make informed decisions about their health.

You can’t blame them. Even though most healthcare professionals are committed to educating their patients—including those with limited health literacy—we don’t always do a great job of it.

Here’s one example. In a 2009 New England Journal article, Ruth Parker tells the story of two parents—one of whom was a physician—who struggled to understand the instructions for their child’s flu medication. The directions were so unclear that the physician had to solve a complex equation to figure out the right dose. If a doctor has a hard time understanding such instructions, how can we expect patients to? It’s not surprising that millions of patients with limited health literacy can’t interpret medication labels correctly, or use other health information to help prevent and manage disease.

These health literacy issues have been linked to serious health consequences. Adults with limited health literacy get fewer mammograms and flu shots. They have more ER visits and hospitalizations. They cost much more to the healthcare system. And they don’t understand their health conditions as well as people who are health literate.

Health literacy should matter to you if:

1. You have a chronic condition. If you or a loved one has a chronic condition, you know there’s a lot to learn. You need to use health information to help manage conditions like diabetes, heart disease, COPD, and many others.

2. You’re a parent. Once you become a mom or dad, you’ll need to use health information to learn how to care for your child.

3. You can’t get health insurance. Patients with limited health literacy cost more, so insurers pay more. That drives up premiums, which can quickly become unaffordable.

4. You have insurance. If you pay health insurance premiums, the price is based on the cost of caring for a large group of people. The extra costs linked to limited health literacy mean the group’s costs go up. That means you pay more in premiums.

5. You’ll someday die. Every mortal adult should have advance directives. These documents list the treatments you would or wouldn’t want if you got too sick to share your wishes. They also let you name someone to make medical decisions for you if you get too sick to communicate. To understand advance directives, you need to understand some basic health information.

If you’re not in any of these groups, stop reading.

If you do fall into one of these categories, you need to educate yourself on health literacy—and learn how to become more health literate. This blog is a good place to start. We’ll help you learn what you need to know about health literacy.

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Jordan Silberman, MD, PhD is the Medical Director of EdLogics, LLC. His interests include health behavior promotion, healthcare communication, health education, and the neurobiology of self-control...read more