Gabriel Perna | May 25, 2021
Geisinger Health System has always been on the cutting edge when it comes to innovation and disruption.
The system implemented an enterprise-wide EHR platform and an innovative value-based care model in the 1990s, long before everyone else in the health care industry did the same. In more recent years, it has consistently been ranked one of the most advanced organizations for digital health adoption, including winning the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) award for “Most Wired” health system in 2020.
Amid an industry suddenly flush in digital health funding, Geisinger began the next step in its disruption journey with ConnectedCare365, a care delivery model for patients with chronic diseases including diabetes, heart failure and hypertension that will be powered by a digital health platform, from a startup called Noteworth.
Patients will be able to monitor their weight, blood pressure, glucose, and other metrics using a smartphone app. The data will be used by Geisinger to prioritize care for high-risk patients to prevent unnecessary emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
“We really feel technology will afford us the opportunity to improve the way we serve our patients with chronic diseases. We’ve been at this for probably the better part of almost two years of evaluating what we’re currently doing and then developing a vision for the future,” says Geisinger’s Karen Murphy, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer. “We will use the patient-reported outcomes and data to improve the way we manage chronic diseases.”
The idea is to start with chronic care management and then build out the platform for other use cases, Murphy says. Ultimately, the goal is to increase patient engagement and decrease unnecessary utilization of the health system.
Lessons learned during a pandemic
Over the past year, Geisinger’s innovation cycle went from years to months to weeks, days and hours. That helped the health system learn a few lessons on digital health, Murphy says, which include: 1) Patients will use these technologies 2) It’s important to monitor patients in their homes and 3) Everyone has the ability to transform.
Murphy says these lessons “provide us with that opportunity to really be able to transform the way we care for patients with chronic diseases.” But it’s not going to be easy, she notes. Many of the patients in Geisinger’s population are in rural communities, which means the ability to reach and connect with them virtually cannot be taken for granted. Moreover, health care systems can’t expect all cases will be ideal for a remote monitoring platform.
“It’s important to develop use cases to produce outcomes. Just because you can monitor someone in their home doesn’t mean you should. Hone in on what evidence suggests are use cases that really make a difference with remote patient monitoring and patient-reported outcomes,” Murphy says. “Also, patients with chronic disease are typically elderly, so we have to make sure we are sensitized to meeting them where they’re at and making sure the technology is intuitive.”
One challenge Geisinger will not have is justifying ROI for the initiative. As an integrated health system with its own health plan, Geisinger doesn’t have to worry about the payment question because it’s already at a high level of value-based payment. For others going down this path, Murphy advises health care leaders to understand their “true north” and overall goal.
“Technology is only an enabling strategy, it’s not the strategy. The strategy should be transformation of care delivery. To take what we’re doing today and just digitalize doesn’t make a lot of sense. Keep your eye on transformation of care delivery. I think it’s really critical for success,” Murphy says.