Jun 13 2019
Patient-Centered Care

How Mobile Devices Improve Patient Experience, Quality of Life

In a wearable-technology intervention study, young adults with cancer improved their health-related quality of life and physical activity.

Adolescent and young adult oncology patients wrestle with significant mental and social issues in addition to the challenges of their medical condition. Fatigue, reduced physical activity and social isolation are all common. But one study suggests technology can improve their health-related quality of life.

Most patients (85 percent) who were equipped with Fitbits and Apple iPads loaded with a meditation app and a suite of games designed for young cancer patients reported that they used the devices to track multiple aspects of their health and 79 percent reported a subjective increase in physical activity. In addition to a user experience questionnaire designed for the study, researchers used the RAND-36 standardized short-form health survey, assessing eight dimensions of health-related quality of life upon entering the study and again six months later, or at the end of treatment, whichever occurred first.

After the intervention, participants demonstrated significant improvements across all eight dimensions, according to Dr. Ilana R. Yurkiewicz of Stanford University School of Medicine and her colleagues, who published their findings based on responses from 33 patients at Stanford University Medical Center in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology.

Wearables Can Help with Pain Management, Sleep

Phoenix Children’s Hospital found a similar approach helped boost satisfaction among their patients, who had access to an iPad in every room. The device stored health records and treatment plans and included access to entertainment options such as games and social media.

“Research shows that the quality of stay for patients and their potential medical recovery can be greatly influenced by whether they have a distraction device like this,” Executive Vice President and COO David Higginson told HealthTech. “We have patients with cystic fibrosis who have to be in isolation over the winter months. Imagine being a teenager locked in a room with no access to social media for a month. It’s miserable.”

Appropriate and effective pain management is also closely tied to patient satisfaction, and some organizations are using handheld technologies in this arena as well.

At Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas, doctors use Samsung tablets running AI software and a connected wearable to help patients manage pain and reduce their dependence on opioids. When the device detects a pattern that indicates pain, discomfort or nausea, it delivers personalized diversionary content.

In addition to pain management, seniors can play cognitive games on the tablets, and patients who have trouble sleeping in hospitals can use music apps to help them nod off.

“This has greatly enhanced the patient experience in our hospital emergency department,” said Kathy Millhiser, director of emergency services at Southern Hills. “We understand how vulnerable our patients can feel when they are in pain and come to the hospital for care.”

Providers must prioritize patient satisfaction as part of any strategy to leverage mobile tools, says Christine Holloway, vice president of CDW Healthcare.

“Like Phoenix Children’s and other organizations, providers must continuously assess the mobile landscape and adjust their strategies accordingly,” she writes in a recent HealthTech article. “Without a well-thought-out plan in place, hospitals will struggle to reap the benefits of deploying technology that caters to today’s end users and meets patients on their terms.”

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