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Doctors are Using “Automated Empathy” to Check Up on Patients

Originally posted on our blog, The Doctor Weighs In

HealthLoop is an automated patient engagement platform that allows patients to get care for their health problems in between office visits. Now, that’s a concept. Since most people see their doctors at most once a month — and more likely three or four times a year — even though they live with their clinical conditions 24/7, it makes sense that digital health innovators would be interested in designing solutions to this problem.

So I was pleased to spend some time with Todd Johnson CEO of HealthLoop, a company innovating in that space at the Health 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, California. During our conversation, Todd told me that the HealthLoop platform provides high touch, empathetic care between office visits using “patient journeys” — automated text messages that help guide patients in-between office visits. The messages are developed by what he calls “empathologists” — doctors, nurses and physicians assistants that “really care about patients.” Their messages are designed to convey to the patient that,

Sounds good? But how do we know it works?

Todd says HealthLoop measures the outcomes of their programs. They know, for example, that 81% of patients activate their HealthLoop account and “routinely engage.” He said 61–70-year-olds are the most likely to be 100% engaged. Even people 81 years old and older engage about half the time when HealthLoop sends them check-ins messages — something that can occur 60–70 times during a care episode.

When I asked him about clinical outcomes he said,

Todd says the company is working with clinical partners to submit an article about their outcomes for publication soon. It will be interesting to see more details on the impact of this innovative service.

HealthLoop helps doctors too

Testimonials from providers suggest that doctors who use HealthLoop messaging with their patients have fewer patient phone calls to deal with, which can allow them to concentrate on patients actually in their offices. The company also claims that HealthLoop-using doctors see improvements in patient satisfaction — something that helps them with insurance companies and other payers and can, in some cases, earn them incentive dollars.

HealthLoop’s customers are independent doctors as well as provider groups such as Cedar Sinai, UCSF, Cleveland Clinic, and others. The company also has agreements with device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and health plans that are creating incentives for providers to use HealthLoop to engage with their patients. Finally, as Todd points out, CMS is now making bundled patients mandatory for hip and knee replacements. This will incent providers to provide this level of service and to encourage them to avoid costly preventable hospitalizations and emergency visits, if possible. Eventually, bundled patients will be rolled out for 52 other episodes of care.

So, it seems that HealthLoop is well positioned to take advantage of the continued migration from volume-based care (aka fee-for-service) to value-based care. I look forward following the HealthLoop story.

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Dr. Patricia Salber and friends weigh in on leading news in health and healthcare

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