Another interesting case for mLearning in Healthcare recently hit my desk. I’ve been asked to help devise a transitional care solution using technology. The specific directions are “maybe something with iPads”.
They’re looking for a way to change a consistent and troubling fact about a particular group of patients. The fact is that these individuals return to the hospital like clockwork after being discharged. The nurses that work with these “frequent flyers” can predict, with uncanny accuracy, saying “He’ll be back in three days...we’ll see her again in a week”, etc. This group all have one or more of a limited set of conditions like COPD. These various lung/heart/diabetes/other related health problems all have self-manageable actions, that if followed, prevent frequent hospitalization. That’s how the nurses predict who will return soon. They know which individuals won’t take their meds, or check their blood sugar, or exercise, or eat right, or monitor anything.
The mLearning solution that my colleague and I are developing centers around helping these patients increase their use of these self-manageable practices. It’s an evolution of the home care nurse visit model. We want to magnify it’s efficacy by adding a nurse’s virtual presence to fill the void of all the days and hours between physical nurse visits. Any tech solution for this patient group has to be really simple and convenient. They’re older, and limited in mobility, tech proficiency, and motivation. The iPad or android tablet might be exactly the tool.
Here’s the logline--a likely patient is profiled while in the hospital. The patient is trained, and given the use of, a tablet device to take home. Their “edu-care” nurse will not only show them how to use it, but also be their virtual coach after they return home. A simple to use, always-on app can be set to handle reminders for taking meds or checking blood sugar. It should have at least a minimal attempt at fun, like the Wii Fit Plus comments about how many days it’s been since you last exercised, or the “Ooooh!” when you step on the balance board sometimes. Simple touch answers to prompts, or sliders for measures, just tidbits at a time, just in time. The edu-nurse, at his/her office in the hospital, or anywhere with a PC, can set or change the scheduled reminders or check the results using the care giver's web interface. The virtual nurse can provide as much of a ticker tape as he/she wants, using twitter, targeting tips, encouragement, or news to similar groups of patients all at once. These nurses might share their various expertise with each other’s patients. Anyone with a COPD patient could for example, set that patient’s iPad to follow on twitter the account of whichever care giver is the COPD expert. The greatest improvement in patient outcome will come from the one-to-one, front-camera to front-camera Skype(or similar) interaction between a patient and their coach. If we provide a semi-constant interaction and invoke any of the smartphone obsessive behavior (i.e. feeling naked without it) that some of us have, these folks will stay out of the hospital longer.
In most cases, one visit would more than pay for the iPad/tablet, and possibly the virtual nurse/coach/educator’s time as well.