Seven ways to include mobile health in your discharge plan

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The discharge process still remains a complex and confusing process for patients and providers. In today’s digital world, the discharge process still remains primarily paper-driven, with patients often leaving with a confusing set of paper instructions.

During hospitalization, discharge planning is initiated late, and involvement with patients is often an afterthought that can lead to delays and poor at-home care. In many cases, poor communication leads to patients reporting problems with medications, self-care, and confusion about their own prognosis.  But in this digitally connected, on-demand, telehealth-enabled healthcare ecosystem, could patient discharge be made easier through digital means? Below are seven ways digital health could improve the patient discharge process.

1.  Continue patient education. Intuitive patient systems (IPS) give caregivers the ability to reinforce health education and home care through a connected patient portal. Providers can assign video content during a hospital stay that provides guided tutorials about a chronic condition, the dose and frequency of medications, and how to care for injuries at home. Since patients and caregivers can only consume limited amounts of information while in the hospital, care administrators should use this time to help familiarize patients with patient portals that will be the at-home resource post-discharge. This makes it easier for them to access and consume the information at their own pace.

2. Make hospital data patient accessible. A patient portal could present information in a more common, easily understood language to help educate patients and caregivers on prognosis. Through a more simplified language, patients can refresh themselves on what happened during their hospitalization and share the data with post-acute-care providers. Having a full snapshot of hospital care within the patient portal can also support medication reconciliations designed to avoid adverse drug interactions.

3. Measure patient activation. While it may not be possible to engage every patient, it is possible to measure the extent to which a person is able to manage home care. Using digital surveys upon discharge assesses a patient’s capacity to be engaged in their own care. This could also provide immediate feedback on whether there is confusion on post-discharge care instructions. The overall score is supplied to clinicians who can then follow-up and help address any lingering issues.

4. Employ a digital companion. Nearly everyone owns a smartphone, which can operate a digital health app to guide patients in their care and treatment post-discharge. The Medisafe app can help patients manage medications, identify contraindications, perform follow-up upon missed doses, and connect to caregivers. The platform can also connect to financial assistance and group support communities to help patients and caregivers receive support and guidance once at home.

5. Track post-discharge compliance and progress. Mobile apps make it easier for providers to monitor compliance, comprehension and trends and adapt care plans accordingly. Many mobile health apps can provide reports to providers on completed assignments, communication exchanges and patient-reported milestones. This real-time insight helps clinical teams track progress, prioritize outreach and determine whether a clinical intervention might be necessary.

6. Personalize care plans. Drawing upon patient data and clinical assessments, the provider and the patient can jointly create a post-discharge care plan that reflects the person’s specific needs, preferences and resources. Digital health tools can then rely upon personal measurements, environment, medication challenges, and health status to create a personalized support journey. Through personalized care and guided support, the digital health platform can lead to increased patient comprehension and adherence.

7. Rethink health literacy. Many patients struggle to follow discharge instructions correctly or to take medication as prescribed because of low health literacy. But digital health is transforming health literacy through videos, guided tutorials, and more simplified language. Instead of leaving patients with stacks of paper with confusing codes, digital health tools can show how to perform an insulin injection, or ways to dress a wound. Chat bots can also be employed to answer some of the most common questions, reducing confusion and impact to clinicians.