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Real Time Data Continues to Drive Real Health Results. But, is this What You're Really Getting?

Research continues to support the contention that real data in real-time brings real results in improving health. For example, recent research from the University of South Carolina found that real-time feedback on energy expended (provided on a wrist-band mounted display) and caloric intake drove higher levels of weight loss than a number of other more traditional weight loss programs.

For most disease management and weight-loss program providers, the challenge isn't envisioning (and promoting) a vision of an ideal real-time solution for chronic and pre-chronic disease sufferers. The challenge is actually doing real-time interventions in a cost effective manner. 

To determine whether you truly are providing real-time interventions to your employees - and paying a fair price for this service - some questions to ask your disease management and weight loss program provider includes:

- What steps do your employees need to take to transmit their biometric or other health data to your program provider? If transmission isn't automatic (for example, it requires the employee to type in data or the system only transmits from certain locations), then you're likely to see data transmission delays, omissions and inaccuracies.

- What is the program provider doing with this data? Are there interventions (such as phone calls to the employee) made in response to certain findings? Or, are interventions made at certain pre-determined intervals? Most programs will still provide scheduled interventions . This meets your disease management company's goals for outreach but does not reach or help the participant when they need it most.

- When interventions are provided in response to certain findings, when do the interventions occur? Most programs will transmit data in batches to nurses or other call center staff for their review. If this is the case, the need for interventions are manually recognized and actual calls, when needed, are delayed relative to the inciting event.

- How is the need for an intervention recognized? In most programs, there are general guidelines for what constitutes a high or low reading requiring follow-up. Sometimes trends are automatically measured as well. But, individualized protocols for what constitutes a concerning finding for a particular patient are not used. Thus the real, different needs of employees with different disease severity, therapies used or co-morbidities aren't taken into account - leading to both sub-optimal interventions as well as the inability to vary the amount of resources expended for different types of patients.

- Are program call-center nursing resources being used efficiently? Translation: are you spending too much money? In most programs, the individualized detection of an intervention need isn't automated, so your program provider is spending too much money on call center nurses going through data and manually prioritizing their time. This translates to your paying more than you should have to.

The bottom line is: many programs are increasingly talking the "real-time" talk, but are they truly providing it? Many are not.

Rebecca Dubowy, Chief Medical Officer



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