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How Patient Data Can Empower Clinical Decision Support

Published on 2/21/2018

In this post, we learn about MoodTrek™, a smartphone app designed to help manage depression alongside a therapy and treatment plan. MoodTrek was designed by a team from University of Missouri Health Care and the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation. This article originally appeared in Perspectives, a thought leadership publication dedicated to rising trends and issues in the health care and IT industry. For more information about Perspectives, go here.

Technology continues to change the face of health care and the way care is delivered. The widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) has improved patient safety, the collection of data and the sharing of information.

Providers now have more access to data in multiple places with the rise of mobile devices and patient portals, but how we use this data in meaningful ways and encourage patients to become more involved in their care is the next hurdle.

The question we face is, how do we retrieve information in the most efficient way that can be used for clinician decision support?
Take depression, for example. It affects more than 15 million American adults each year, and more than likely, you know a loved one, friend or co-worker who has or will suffer from the disease. The reality is that they’re not only struggling with the symptoms of the illness, they’re also battling the stigma that goes along with it. We need to empower those who suffer from depression to get more involved in their own care.

Redefining the patient role

The first thing we can do as an industry is to redefine the role of the patient and how they interact with their care team by using technology to bridge the gap. Two years ago, a team from University of Missouri Health Care and the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation developed the MoodTrek™ smartphone app to address the issue of day-to-day mood tracking.
Patients struggling with depression and other mood-related disorders are often challenged to provide accurate information to their clinician since many patients only visit their psychiatrist once every couple of months. Historically, patients would track their mood in a journal using pen and paper, but more often than not, those would be incomplete. Frankly, it’s unrealistic to expect people will journal every day. It’s not always convenient or top of mind in our fast-paced lives.
We turned to technology to confront this challenge. Most everyone has a smartphone, so using an app that can track a person’s mood in the moment provides real-time insight to providers who can use the information to track trends and recommend the best treatment plans.

Improving user experience

MoodTrek works on a scale of one to five, and when prompted, patients simply select the appropriate emoticon on the app that matches their current feeling. It takes seconds to complete, and then the person can go about their day. If they feel inclined, they can also include a brief description as well that provides their care team with more context. MoodTrek is integrated with Fitbit to automatically capture activity and sleep, so if the patient chooses to connect them, they can also capture that data.
Health care is complex, so we purposely designed the app to be simple. The goal was for the app to accomplish what it needed to and nothing more. By simply glancing at the app, a person should know how to use it.

This concept goes beyond apps. If we want patients to be involved, we need to improve the user experience in all aspects of health care. Does the technology serve a need? Does it provide value? These are the questions we need to be asking.

Patient-entered data

It’s an interesting concept to prescribe an app as part of a patient’s treatment, but we believe having the right patient-entered data can help with the care process. However, it needs to be beneficial for both the patient and the provider to make it work. For the patient, that means the tools need to be intuitive and easy, while the provider needs to be able to easily access and digest large amounts of data from the EHR and pull trends from that data.

Being a university town, we rolled out the MoodTrek app as part of a pilot program with student health. One participant used the app to continue tracking his mood over summer break even though he lived thousands of miles away from his provider. The information was integrated directly into his chart, so when he returned to school all his information was there, and he didn’t skip a beat with his provider.
Although only 50 people were in the pilot program, the app has now been downloaded more than 2,500 times. Patients can choose to download and share their recorded information with their providers, whether printed and delivered in person, by mail or sent via email.

The next stop in the journey

We’ve finished up the pilot, and the mobile app is available for free on both Android and iOS. Tracking mood behaviors is just the beginning. While we’re early in the journey, we believe patient-entered data provides rich, contextual information that can ultimately improve outcomes.
Patient engagement should no longer happen solely in the exam room. By using technology and providing two-way communication, we can enrich the lives of patients and empower them to take control of their health care.

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