Ochsner focuses on clinical efficiencies to improve patient outcomes
Strong physician-patient relationships correlate with improved clinical outcomes. And, in ever-increasing instances, technology empowers clinicians to enhance patient connections. In fact, a 2020 Deloitte survey revealed that 83 percent of U.S. physicians expect the integration of patient-generated data with care delivery to be standard practice within 5 to 10 years.
That perspective resonates at not-for-profit Ochsner Health, which operates 40 hospitals and more than 300 health and urgent care centers across Louisiana, Mississippi and the Gulf South.
Here are 3 ways Ochsner has deployed patient-centered technology to improve outcomes:
Chronic disease management. Digital medicine programs focused on hypertension and diabetes track participants’ conditions using blood pressure cuffs and glucose monitors. Full-time technology specialists employed by Ochsner help patients set up the devices. A smartphone app collects device data and automatically populates patient charts in the organization’s electronic medical record (EMR).
The digital diabetes program significantly improved patients’ glycemic control and other diabetes measures (57 percent reduction for hyperglycemia and 74 percent reduction in hypoglycemic episodes). In comparison, patients receiving “usual care” over the same period had no change in either hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia indexes. Further, “the use of a virtual health intervention using connected devices was widely accepted across a broad range of ethnic diversity, ages and levels of health literacy,” a published study report concluded.
In the hypertension program, participants are asked to take at least one blood pressure reading per week. If they fail to do so, they receive an automated text reminder. On the caregiver side, custom visual tools within the EMR convey information such as blood pressure over time, hypertension-related comorbidities, lab results and the patient’s social determinants of health. Compared to “usual care” patients, program participants had more blood pressure measurements recorded in the EMR, more frequent interactions with their care team and greater medication adherence. Overall, 79 percent of digital medicine patients achieved blood pressure control vs. 26 percent of patients not in the program. Additionally, “primary care physicians experienced a 29 percent reduction in the number of in-clinic visits from participating patients, thus reducing their workloads and enabling greater access for other patients,” the study report noted.
Pregnancy care. Expectant mothers stay connected to their care team throughout pregnancy. Patients use a connected blood pressure cuff, connected weight scale and urine test strips to track their health and share results with caregivers remotely. Program participants averaged three fewer in-person OB visits during pregnancy, while care teams identified pre-eclampsia weeks earlier than in traditional obstetrics programs.
In-patient monitoring. Integrated artificial intelligence issues early-warning alerts when hospitalized patients show signs of deterioration. Rapid-response team members receive notifications, which enable quick assessments. In a 90-day pilot study, the program successfully reduced adverse events outside the ICU by 44 percent. The program is now used in 15 hospitals within the Ochsner health system.
As similar projects gain traction across the country in terms of clinical benefits, efficiency and ease of use, health systems and payers will gravitate toward programs that reduce resource utilization. At the same time, factors such as interoperability, workflow efficiency and data security will determine how quickly healthcare organizations fully embrace the power of technology in connecting with patients to improve patient outcomes.
Frank Irving is a Philadelphia-based content writer and communications consultant specializing in healthcare, technology and sports.