Communication-based healthcare apps stand to improve complex care coordination, which is especially important for older adults
Consider all of the care providers involved in the typical person’s medical care: primary care physician, therapist, gynecologist or urologist, dentist, dermatologist….the list tends to increase with age. And the more people involved, the more easily things — appointments, medications, tests, procedures — can get lost in the mix.
Older adults tend to have more chronic diseases, which means more medications, more types of therapy, and more healthcare providers. Because of this wide range of needs, geriatric care is among the most challenging specialties to manage. There’s also a lot at stake.
“In our elderly population, we see a lot of issues with confusion, mobility, malnutrition, and medications that need to be adjusted because they have a lot of changes as they’re growing older,” says Reena Paul, MD, a family medicine physician who sees many geriatric patients for Amita Health. Care for one person often includes the physician, consultant physicians, physical or occupational therapists, a speech therapist, a dietician, a social worker, home-care nurses, and numerous others, she says.
That’s where technology stands to make a difference. To connect the layers of care and providers any one person may require, healthcare apps are coming to the rescue.
In fact, technology-enabled care coordination stands to improve mental health outcomes over the next decade, according to a 2021 study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Given the complexity of mental healthcare and the study’s outcomes, other healthcare sectors stand to see similarly drastic improvements with real-time care coordination.
Innovators in Chicago are at work on just that. Asif Khan, Laura McKee, and Mudaser Ali co-founded the HIPAA-compliant messaging app hucu.ai. Their goal: to create a patient-centered communication platform that enables stakeholders — such as doctors, nurses, patients, and approved family members — to better coordinate care through shared information. Hucu.ai currently has more than 450 clients, including MPAC Healthcare, Mayo Clinic, and Arizona State University.
Approved parties sign into the app to instant message each other, engaging in real-time dialogue. Khan describes the platform as a “Slack or Microsoft Teams but for healthcare.” Other apps, such as TigerConnect or OhMD offer similar services, but hucu.ai stands out for being patient-centered, not designed solely for hospital or clinic workflows like other healthcare messaging platforms.
Whether a nurse has a question about a prescription or a patient wants to schedule a telehealth session, anyone can post a message to the patient’s channel. Then, the relevant party responds as soon as possible. The platform is also integrated with Zoom, allowing for telehealth appointments when necessary.
Timothy Martinez, CEO of post-acute care company MPAC Healthcare, a client of hucu.ai, says that thanks to the app, providers “now feel more empowered and [are] getting care to their patients faster.”
Fran Walker is one of those providers. An advanced practice nurse at MPAC Healthcare, she says the platform gives her patients peace of mind. “The kind of peace of mind that comes with knowing that there is someone available with a click of a button, even if [the patient] doesn’t fully understand the technology.”
Coordinating care has always been one of the great challenges of medicine. Asif Khan says that “the industry is used to doing things the hard way, with emails, faxes, and phone calls,” which can make people resistant to learning a new method, even if it is easier.
While a single solution may not exist, technology can help ameliorate the problem. And as providers and patients become more comfortable using apps to communicate and coordinate care, we may find that the key to greater coordination is sitting right in our back pocket.