Jefferson Health Uses mHealth to Refine the Care Management Conversation

mHealth tools aren’t designed to eliminate the conversations between a patient and a doctor. In many instances, such as telemental health treatments, these apps and tools work to make the conversations better.

That’s the goal behind Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health’s roll-out of a digital health platform created by NeuroFlow. By prescribing an app that includes surveys, reminders, symptom trackers, online resources and other self-help tools and gathering information through that portal, care providers are able to fill in a lot of the blanks prior to a session and move more quickly to meaningful dialogue and treatment.

“We’re always looking for ways to enforce what we talk about with patients when we’re face to face with them,” says Michael Vergare, MD, a professor and Chairman of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. When doctors have more information about what goes on outside the office and in the home, he adds, they’re better equipped to manage care going forward.

The 14-hospital health system has been working with NeuroFlow, a Philly-based startup, for more than a year. They started by prescribing the mHealth app to primary care patients, then recently began targeting women at risk of experience postpartum depression.

“It's critical to integrate mental with physical wellness,” Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health, said in a recent press release highlighting the roll-out to OBGYN patients. With the app, “we can reinforce the vital link between physical and mental health and ensure patients are more engaged. It will deliver better outcomes and reduce the administrative burden placed on our providers.”

Mobile health interventions need to be flexible, and in some cases personalized. A cookie-cutter app that pledges to treat all behavioral health patients won’t resonate with those patients if it doesn’t address their specific concerns.

“You have to focus on the interface and make constant tweaks,” says Vergare, who noted that Jefferson Health providers worked with NeuroFlow to tailor the platform for postpartum depression patients before it was unveiled a few months ago.

Vergare says Jefferson Health focused first on engagement rates in measuring the app’s effectiveness, and the health system has been seeing upwards of 70 percent of its patients using the resource. In time, he says, they’ll set their sights on collaboration, and look for ways to measure how the app improves patient outcomes and facilitates provider care management.

“Measurement-based care is no longer just a talking point, but a common practice, especially for Jefferson Health and their desire to enhance precision medicine and technology capabilities,” NeuroFlow Chief Operating Officer Adam Pardes said in the press release. “Their guidance was instrumental in the development process, and their team of clinicians will continue to be extremely influential as we work with them to expand the patient engagement platform to various specialties within the health system.”

Jefferson Health isn’t the first health system to try out Neuroflow. Last year, New Jersey-based Relievus Pain Management added the digital health platform to its growing toolkit. The clinic highlighted a growing tactic of treating patients not only for chronic conditions but the underlying behavioral health issues that may exacerbate those illnesses.

“We used to focus on one thing – the patient’s physical health,” Young J. Lee, MD, a pain specialist and anesthesiologist and the clinic’s managing partner, told mHealthIntelligence in a September 2018 interview. “We used to document (a patient’s mental status), but we didn’t do anything about it. Now we’re paying attention to mental health and we’re realizing that pain is not just a physical issue. This is a physical and mental issue.”

“This is a great tool,” Lee said. “We now have the chance to treat the whole patient.”

Vergare agrees. He notes that Jefferson Health will soon use the digital therapeutic tool on a whole new population: those dealing with addiction issues.

Originally published in mHealth Intelligence by Eric Wicklund on July 24, 2019