Digital Tools Unveiled to Improve Doctor-Patient Interaction

Laird Harrison

September 24, 2014

SANTA CLARA, California — Software programs can encourage communication between doctors and patients, reducing costs and improving outcomes, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs say.

"Patients are more engaged and more aligned with the healthcare goals that their physicians are being reimbursed on," said West Shell, CEO of Conversa Health.

Patients using Conversa can view educational materials and answer structured questions from multiple devices. The data then flow into a physician dashboard, which integrates information with existing electronic health record and practice management systems.

"We can really drill down on those patients requiring the most care and outreach," Shell explained.

He and 4 other technologists presented new products here at the Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference.

Meghan Conroy, CEO of CaptureProof, described her company's technology for sending photographs and videos from patients' smartphones to providers.

She presented the case of a patient worried about an infection in a hand incision. The patient could quickly and easily send a photo of the wound or a video to show the range of motion to a physician for evaluation. The system can display 2 videos or photographs side by side.

"The doctor has the capacity to see if the patient is getting better or not," explained Conroy, who suggests the system reduces the need for emergency department and office visits.

Mobile Applications

New technology can help connect patients, providers, caregivers, pastors, or anyone else people might want to inform about their health. InCircle, a mobile application offered by Medecision, fosters conversation so people can better coordinate care, said Abisheg Elijah, director of strategy and international operations for the company.

"Nearly 70% of preventable adverse health events are caused by poor communication," he explained.

InCircle provides secure messaging to improve collaboration between patients, providers, and caregivers, and an appointment schedule.

Another option called WiserCare is designed to help organize healthcare decisions. A series of questions probe the patients' needs and values while guiding them through healthcare options.

For example, David Cerino, the company's CEO, explained that it might help a patient with prostate cancer evaluate the risk for erectile dysfunction or other adverse events against the increased longevity that a prostatectomy might provide.

"At the very end of the experience, I understand what the best-fit treatment options are based on my preferences and my values," said Cerino.

The physician receives a report about the patient's responses to the questionnaire. "We're seeing patient satisfaction increase, the time a physician spends with a patient decrease, and less expensive treatment options," said Cerino.

Rather than educating the patient, Change-Talk teaches practitioners how to improve communication.


The program offers a series of animated videos in which practitioners use different approaches when talking to patients and caregivers about delicate subjects, such as obesity and post-traumatic stress disorder. The simulated interactions show how patients and caregivers might react.

"They have been shown to be very, very effective in changing behavior," said Ron Goldman, CEO of Kognito, which produces the program. "It's making sure the human element, not just the medical record, is going into interactions."

Research suggests that most people like learning from animations rather than videos of live actors, said Goldman. "There is tremendous evidence that all of us are more comfortable interacting with virtual humans."

During a question-and-answer period after the presentation, members of the audience probed the marketability of these products.

Presenters said they are saving time for physicians and money for payers. "Our true customers are the insurance organizations, the health maintenance organizations, and they are taking notice," said Conroy.

Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference. Presented September 23, 2014.


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