Health IT is connecting patients to quality healthcare now more than ever. And women – more than anyone – are leading the initiative to get their families the quality care they need. Collaborating with influencers across the healthcare spectrum, we are making a shift in HIT to cater to these heads of households’ needs and better the standard of care for patients across the globe.

Do you believe women are on the front lines of patient engagement? Why?

Nick van Terheyden, MD, CMO at Dell Health: We even find societies in the world where women hold the dominant role – the Mosuo living in China near the Tibetan border for example – and so it is in healthcare. Women play a central role in the delivery and support of healthcare in the system, their families and in the home. They are oftentimes the primary care giver in families with young children and older relatives, and while these are shared responsibilities, frequently women are the main contact point and coordinator for care for everyone in a family. I believe some of this is built in, as exemplified by my own mother, who never stopped “mothering” me. Despite the fact that I was an adult, married and looking after my own family and children, she would still want and be involved in my wellbeing and care. There’s some genetic component to this – perhaps a caring gene that is more pronounced in women – not that men don’t care; they do but they tend to show this in different ways.

Jess Clifton, Healthcare Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist: Women absolutely represent the front lines of patient engagement coming and going. About 90% of nurses are women and I’d venture to guess that the ratio of women managing healthcare on behalf of their families looks pretty similar. Whether it’s rooted in biology or learned behavior, many of us adopt the role of caregiver.

Max Stroud, Lead Consultant at Galen Healthcare: Women are on the front lines of patient engagement, primarily because women are on the front lines of healthcare.  Most healthcare employees, and especially those that have the most direct contact with patients are women.  On the flip side, it is commonly women in our society who are tasked with the caregiving/care coordinating roles for our elders and our children.

 

How can providers and vendors make HIT apps more engaging / rewarding for heads of households?

Nick van Terheyden: Simplification of the tools that take account of the many things that head of households are dealing with. Man or woman, mother or father in a household – this responsibility entails a lot of coordination and juggling many different priorities. Solutions that are built without taking account of the messy world we live in have a very short half-life. Solutions that offer useful insights, health reminders that appear within the normal stream of our everyday lives, and solutions that accommodate you, your family and your health challenges are the ones that will be successful. Sending an email reminder to the head of household about vaccinations due that won’t be seen until the evening when finally, the world around is under control provide limited value.

Jess Clifton: Clean, intuitive design is a key element in health adoption. Make it easy for me to engage and do business with you. The more personalized you make my experience (patient-specific content, triggered/custom alerts, targeted outreach, etc.), the more likely I will be to stick with your app. If you can find a way to incentivize patients for wellness-promoting behaviors, all the better!

Max Stroud: The problem currently with healthcare tech & apps for households is that there are so many different apps for small parts of what a family must do to manage care – and those that try to do it all – like HealthVault are not really user-friendly or intuitive. I love the idea of a “meta portal” where information from every patient portal could be viewed in one place, but I have yet to see one.

 

What healthcare tech is being underutilized for women/families?

Nick van Terheyden: We miss so many opportunities to intervene based on timing – reminders that appear too late or at the wrong time to be actioned. For any of these insights to work and useful actionable intelligence to be delivered at the right time requires a level of trust and the release of more data between technology and the user. We are all willing to give up personal data about ourselves in exchange for the ability to connect on Facebook. We load our calendar onto our laptops and into the cloud because it helps organize us, and we let applications peek in so they can provide us with useful insights. Telling me the traffic is heavy for an upcoming appointment based on my current location relative to the appointment and then offering me an early alert to say “You need to leave now to be there on time” is a fair exchange of data for value. There is wide open space for innovations that help build that trust between the applications and solutions and the sharing of personal data so it can be used to bring value and intelligence to the solutions.

Jess Clifton: Broader adoption of simple things like email and SMS messaging with providers will have a big impact on patient engagement. I think there is ample room for growth in telehealth, particularly in pediatrics. I also anticipate growth in wearables, IT, and quantified self-health tech inside the home. I think those technologies will end up redefining what we think of as Home Health. I would love to see health tech bring the other arenas that comprise patient health – nutrition, exercise, behavioral health – into the fray more.

At the end of the day, health tech is how the industry will finally push healthcare beyond the walls of institutionalized care and drive patient health awareness/partnership to elicit better outcomes.

Max Stroud: Patient portals, while frustrating that there are many of them, can simplify life a lot.  Online scheduling of appointments and asynchronies communication with healthcare providers is a huge help to people who have many plates in the air – working, caregiving, childrearing.

[Click here to read part two of our Q&A on the role of women in healthcare.]