Healthcare News & Insights

Hospital uses iPads to help patients manage inflammatory bowel diseases

Wouldn’t it be great if hospitals could find a way to treat and make some of their patients better via remote access, all while lowering healthcare costs? Well, the UCLA Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease is doing just that.

The center is using Apple iPads to help monitor their patients’ care 24/7.

In one of the first programs of its kind for inflammatory bowel disease, patients, doctors and nurses all use iPads to help track patients’ symptoms and care, and communicate with each other in real time about the best ways to manage the chronic disease.

Studies have shown that close monitoring, early intervention and disease management education have a profound effect on patients’ quality of life. This approach has also been shown to significantly lower healthcare costs.

Pilot program

The center’s pilot program allows patients to check in with their healthcare team via the iPad. And the iPad’s interactive program asks patients questions to gauge how they’re doing in areas of disease activity, quality of life and work productivity. Their answers are instantly sent to their doctors and nurses to look over.

The patients are asked to check in periodically and complete a program entitled “My Academy.” It’s a personalized online teaching program that helps patients better understand their disease, explains diagnostic tests and teaches them about medications.

Then, depending on the patients’ responses, doctors and nurses can:

  • prescribe a new medication
  • make an office visit appointment for the patient, and
  • offer ways to cope with the anxiety and isolation that can occur with chronic disease.

Value-based health care

The basis of the program is centered around value-based health care. And value is measured by disease control, quality of life and productivity.

The program uses a “value quotient” (VQ), which captures the value of healthcare services to individual patients over time and correlates it with associated costs.

In a press release, Dr. Daniel Hommes, professor of medicine at UCLA and director of the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, said, “Using a tablet, like an iPad, helps us to reach out and interact with patients during their daily lives and routines so we can intervene early, if needed.”

And as for the patients, Dr. Hommes said, “It’s like having a doctor in their back pocket.”

“The iPad is the perfect assistant to keep tabs on my condition, and it enables me to take part in monitoring my progress,” said Hershel Sinay, a 74-year-old man who has dealt with ulcerative colitis for years and is a patient in the program. “It is interactive, and questions can be asked and responded to in quick order. It is empowering in that I have input to my medical team and can see my progress online.”

Early intervention is another key to the program. By having healthcare professionals partner with patients to manage their conditions, and teach them what to look for and when to seek help, hospitals can often lower costs for both patients and the healthcare system.

Now that the pilot program has been completed successfully, the team plans to expand the program to other chronic diseases, such as heart failure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In addition, they plan to create apps for tablet PCs and smart phones.

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