Three Tech Tools That Make Physicians' Jobs Easier

November 28, 2014
Zach Watson

These three tools can help independent physicians build a community, improve patient care, and get involved in mobile health.

A lot of large companies such as IBM and GE are getting in on the healthcare technology act, but it’s the smaller startup organizations that are delivering much of the innovation. Due to the massive potential for invention, funding for digital health startups is on track to nearly double from 2013. In the first three quarters of 2014, investment totaled $5 billion.

The seemingly constant chatter about emerging healthcare technology and medical software may sound great for massive integrated health networks looking for better ways to collect patient survey data, but what does it actually mean for independent practices? Do any of these technologies have sufficient utility to a smaller patient population to warrant being implemented by non-hospital employed physicians?

Well now that you mention it, yes. Here are the three healthcare startups that make the most sense for independent practices.

1. Doximity
Initially described as LinkedIn for doctors, Doximity boasts 295,000 members as of 2014. That’s nearly 40 percent of the United States’ physicians. In the early days this social media platform only offered physicians the opportunity to connect with other physicians around the country, which essentially made the network a place to, well, network.

While that does create interesting opportunities for physicians, particularly on a local level where independent practices set up referral networks, it has limited appeal over the long term. So Doximity added an automated feature that curates literature for members to read based on their specialty and area of interest. Even better, members can earn Category 1 CME credits for reading these journals.

In addition to supplying physicians with a dedicated community of peers and emerging research curated to your interests, Doximity members also receive a free, dedicated HIPAA compliant e-fax number. This feature makes Doximity more than an online forum and pushes it into the area of a true coordinated care network. Now physicians can connect with local specialists online, and easily transfer records over the phone.

2. Filament Labs Patient IO
Making sure patients take their medications properly is a serious problem for the entire medical industry. According to a report by the federal government, Americans with chronic conditions only take their medications properly an estimated 50 percent to 60 percent of the time, a terrible statistic that signals a huge opportunity for technology.

Another study by the American Journal of Managed Care found that when prompted, patients take their medications more often. While this is the result of only one study, it suggests that mobile apps such as Filament Labs’ Patient IO have a significant role to play in improving outcomes.

Controlled and administered by physicians, Patient IO supplies patients with the ability to manage their own care outside of the physician’s office with condition-specific education, to-do lists built around their treatment plan, and most importantly, push notifications when it is time to take a medication or do physical therapy.

Basically, physicians create a task list in Patient IO that is then pushed to the patient’s phone. To-do lists can be constructed individually or pulled from a library of templates linked to specific treatment plans. Physicians can even set the appropriate times for treatment plan tasks, making sure that the timing of push notifications lines up with the appropriate activity.

While it’s best utilized on mobile, Patient IO can also be accessed from an Internet browser, and allows both physicians and family members to check in on patients' progress and hold them accountable.

3. HealthLoop
Dubbed customer relationship management for doctors, HealthLoop automates many of the repetitive aspects of patient care, allowing physicians and care teams to focus on the important aspects, such as data gathered from a patient’s smartphone that gets pushed directly to the program’s dashboard.

HealthLoop also helps providers navigate the increasingly deep sea of patient generated data to uncover high-risk individuals as well as identify trends in different cohorts. If HealthLoop sounds a lot like a data analytics platform, that’s because it almost is. But with the changing reimbursement structure, it makes a lot more sense for independent practitioners to begin considering achievable methods for participating in population health and scalable preventable medicine.

In addition to its data prowess, HealthLoop also automates certain aspects of follow-up care by offering patients a method for easily uploading data so providers can monitor their vital signs and symptoms in-between visits.

Some large hospital networks are so eager for innovative technology that they’re creating funding mechanisms to engender promising startups. That’s basically impossible for independent physicians, so a certain amount of early adoption can make things much more manageable. The preceding programs all offer exciting opportunities for growth and efficiency.