Involving patients in the development of e-health
"In the end, we're doing it for the patients." This quote, which I hear quite often, suggests that the patients were the last consideration in the development of new healthcare innovations. I'm sure I've said it myself over the years, but I believe that the best innovations are created when patients are involved from the very start. That's why this blog post covers the top three principles everyone in healthcare should keep in mind.
By now, we all know that involving patients in the development and implementation of e-health services leads to faster and more meaningful results. Patient involvement is not only important for developing e-health solutions like telemonitoring, but also for ensuring continuity and sustaining patient interest.
But how can you get patients involved?
1. What's in it for them? Make the benefits clear
How will the new development benefit the patient? It may seem logical that a new solution should add value for patients, but experience has shown that patients aren't always aware of the potential benefits. Moreover, we sometimes see a discrepancy between what the patient needs and what the healthcare provider wants. "Moreover, we sometimes see a discrepancy between what the patient needs and what the healthcare provider wants."
Allow me to illustrate: I recently heard a healthcare professional say that she didn't see the value of tracking her patients' activity level. The patients, on the other hand, were interested in tracking their daily steps.
If this motivates patients to monitor their health, that's the best and the fastest road to success in my opinion!
Not all aspects of a new e-health service should add value to both the patient and the healthcare provider. Of course, it's important to give healthcare providers the tools they need to monitor patients remotely, but it can be just as important to give patients some extra incentive to keep using the solution effectively.
2. Answer the "why" question!
To make patients aware of the benefits, you'll have to find out why patients accept and use e-health. What triggers them to use it for an extended period of time?
Several factors influence a patient's decision to use a new technology. One of the factors involved in telemonitoring, for example, is the degree to which patients believe it will improve their performance. For example: the patient who feels fitter after resuming his daily walk around the block. He notices an improvement and feels secure knowing that he's being monitored the entire time.
A second factor is the degree to which patients believe a solution will make life easier. Many COPD patients, for example, believe daily monitoring will help them prevent unnecessary and intensive trips to the hospital.
Make sure you have a clear perspective of the "why" question and can present this convincingly to the patient.
2. Don't forget the impact on caregivers
An e-health innovation can have a positive effect on both the patient and the caregiver, who is often overlooked or underestimated. "An e-health innovation can have a positive effect on both the patient and the caregiver, who is often overlooked or underestimated."
I recently met with a patient and his wife during an organized patient evening. The patient had undergone surgery for cancer several months earlier. I asked his wife, the primary caregiver, how things were going now that her husband was home from the hospital. She immediately teared up.
She told me how scared she was. That her husband had entered the hospital in relatively good health and had come home after surgery looking incredibly weak. She didn't know whether his condition was due to the operation or if something else was going on.
Some at-home support would be extremely useful for her and could include the ability to monitor her husband's vital signs or contact the doctor for feedback and reassurance about her husband's condition.
We should never forget the impact e-health innovation can have on caregivers. It can also be extremely reassuring for patients as well.
There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all e-health recipe.
All patients are different, which means healthcare will have to become more personalized in the future. Personal preferences, the nature of the illness, and the burden of disease is different for every patient, which means we can't create an e-health recipe that suits everyone.
Implementing a new e-health service for senior citizens who've tested all the latest gadgets is not our biggest challenge. The challenge is to inspire less educated or less assertive patients to try out a new e-health service.
Improving quality of care
We all want to provide the highest quality care – the same care we would want for ourselves or our loved ones. Whether this involves a service like telemonitoring or hospital care, if the care isn't tailored to the needs and wishes of patients, it's unlikely to be successful on a larger scale. "If the care isn't tailored to the needs and wishes of patients, it's unlikely to be successful on a larger scale."
That's why I described three important pillars that I experienced when developing new innovations. E-health is an entirely new approach that we're only just now beginning to implement. That's why it's so important to involve patients at an early stage.
As a Product Researcher at FocusCura, I straddle two worlds: I focus on advanced home healthcare and I carry out scientific research as a PhD candidate at Utrecht University Medical Center. This blog offers updates on my PhD research, "A Safe Path from ICU to Home" and research developments in the field of cVitals.