Raymond Lavoie is executive director of Blackstone Valley Community Health Care (BVCHC). The health center recently became among the first in the country to bring out a smartphone app intended for patient and wider community use to track health and fitness results.
PBN: How does the Blackstone Valley Community Health Care app work?
LAVOIE: The Blackstone Valley app can be downloaded to be used on iPhones, iPads, or an Android device. Just search for BVCHC. Once downloaded, you can search for a BVCHC provider on our directory and use a Google map to get directions to our offices. Whether or not you’re a BVCHC patient, you can use the app to search for medical information within the Mayo clinic library, and most importantly, you can use our Health Trackers. This function allows you to electronically record your weight, blood pressures, glucose, and cholesterol. With that data, you can set a health goal for yourself and the Health Tracker will display your progress in achieving that goal.
Other functions include one for pregnancy, one to track headaches and one to chart your mood. By recording pertinent information and sharing it with your primary care provider, we get a fuller picture of your health and will be able to notice health trends, for instance an increase in stress causes an increase in headaches, to see how we can solve the root causes of health issues. We see the app as a way of more accurately reporting on what’s going on between visits to the doctor than relying on memory alone.
PBN: What does it offer that isn’t already offered in a Fitbit?
LAVOIE: In addition to the features offered above, which includes a Bluetooth interface to Fitbit among other activity trackers, the app offers the unusual capability of sending a document containing all patient-recorded information into the patient’s electronic health record if the individual is a patient at Blackstone Valley. The primary care physician can review this document prior to the patient’s next visit. This serves as a conversation starter as now the physician has information on what has been happening with the patient between visits.
PBN: What has been the public response?
LAVOIE: We just launched the app late last month, and are introducing it to clients during their visits so we’re still in the roll-out phase. Going forward, we can track usage by accessing a dashboard which provides data on the number of downloads, the geographic dispersion of the downloads, and the features of the app that are accessed most by users. Most important, the dashboard provides data on the usage of each of the individual Health Trackers. To date, we’re seeing that the Health Trackers are, by far, the most frequently used functionality of the app.
PBN: Have there been any technical issues to resolve?
LAVOIE: Absolutely. That’s why we went through a beta phase with our provider. We wanted to make sure that interfaces worked as well as reporting and we’re confident that it’s easy to use and reporting the information that we need at this time. Going forward, this technology will enable our doctors to download patient recorded data (with prior patient consent) into our electronic medical record system. In 2017, the government will require medical homes to have the ability to include patient recorded data in an EMR for Meaningful Use Stage 3. This app puts us on the path to an easier compliance with that requirement because we’ll have three years of experience under our belt.
PBN: Do you see the app as a pivot point in the delivery of health care in the state?
LAVOIE: I see this app as a second channel for our patients to use to communicate with their primary care physician at Blackstone. Let’s face it, many in the younger generation prefer this kind of communication. We also have a patient portal available to our patients, which is tethered to the EMR, as another channel. The patient portal required a PC to be available, whereas smartphones are becoming fairly ubiquitous. Fortunately, the patient portal has now been mobilized, so we believe one channel will help augment the take-up rate and usage of the other channel. A handy distinction to keep in mind: the app allows the patients to report to us. The patient portal allows Blackstone to report to the patient (appointment reminders, lab results, patient plan, etc.). Both of these channels are intended to engage patients more fully in their own health care.