Looking for fun ways to encourage healthy lifestyles and facilitate compliance with home exercise plans for your patients? From continuous glucose monitors to Fitbits to health-centric smart phone apps, patients are better equipped than ever to capture activity and health information and share it with their healthcare team.
In a March 2019 article in PT in Motion News, Chris Hayhurst wrote, “Patients are the drivers of change – leveraging the power of their limited health care budgets to push providers to better meet their needs.” For the millions of people living with Parkinson’s disease, diabetes or cardiovascular disease, fitness trackers and comparable devices can help change behavior, resulting in increased activity to decrease secondary health complications, hospital readmissions and hastened morbidity.
UC-San Francisco conducted research into this exact topic – how virtual reality games could increase movement for Parkinson’s patients as part of a home-based program. The study found that after playing the VR games for 12 weeks, 65 percent of patients had longer strides and 55 percent had increased gait velocity while 55 percent also reported improved balance.
At Casamba, we are joining the effort to connect patients, technology and the team to promote better health outcomes. We have partnered with MobileHelp Healthcare to offer home health agency clients an EMR platform that interfaces with remote patient monitoring.
Patients can use MobileHelp to capture blood pressure, weight, pulse oximeter and blood glucose levels. Partnering with Casamba helps to incorporate the data into the patient’s electronic health record and allows home health agencies to better manage a patient’s health in between visits.
In addition, the MobileHelp service will provide secure text messaging capabilities, video capabilities, medication reminders, visitor verification, patient engagement and caregiver/clinician portals with business intelligence tools.
What can you do now?
Talk to your patients, ask them to share their health tracking information and/or incorporate it into the goals and home exercise plan. Where therapists used to suggest a set number of reps for specific exercises, consider suggesting 20 minutes of increased activity or 500 additional steps daily and use the fitness trackers to capture and motivate patients to participate.
What if your patient asks for a recommendation for a fitness tracker? In a recent story, the AARP suggests what mature patients should look for:
Ease of use
It shouldn’t take a lengthy manual to understand how the device works, but instructions should be clear and complete enough to easily set it up and use it daily.
Distance vs. training gauges
If you simply want to know how many steps you take, look for an all-day tracker. These generally measure steps as well as stairways climbed, duration of the exercise and calories burned. If you want to go beyond measuring distance to get details on the speed, pace and stride associated with your steps as well as the path traveled, look for a training tracker. These models can provide data tailored to swimmers, golfers, skiers, weight lifters or marathon runners.
Some trackers automatically tell how many calories you’ve eaten and even how many of those calories came from carbs, fat or protein.
Heart rate monitor
This allows you to control the intensity of your workout. In general, monitors that strap to the chest and transmit information to the tracker are more precise than sensors applied to your wrist.
Bigger displays provide easier navigation through various functions. Advanced trackers show words, numbers and symbols on a watch-face display. Others share data using an LED light display or through an app. When you sync the data onto your smartphone or computer, the tracker’s companion app not only archives the information but also helps interpret and analyze it. Consumer Reports advises shoppers to preview the tracker’s companion app in the Apple App Store or on Google Play to make sure it lives up to expectations.
Comfort and style
Many bands have slats or another way to adjust to your wrist. Some can be clipped to your clothing, which may be more comfortable to wear. And some are designed for the style conscious.
Unfettered by cumbersome wires, this [wireless technology] allows quick and easy connections to phones and other devices through special apps.
Water and sweat resistance
Moisture can shorten the life of the tracker. Some trackers are just splash-proof. Others can withstand a hardy shower or even swimming.
A good tracker can monitor the length and quality of your sleep. Some track movement and sleep patterns and sync wirelessly with a mobile app to keep track of the data they collect.
Some are more energy-efficient than others and can be used longer without charging or replacing the batteries. Battery life can stretch from one day to several months. A tracker with a color touch screen and lots of sensors will need to be charged more frequently than a simple band with a few LED lights. Some trackers are rechargeable, and some run on the coin cell batteries often used in cameras and calculators.
As Casamba explores more partnerships with fitness and health tracking firms, we encourage you to open a dialogue with your patients and their families. Explore what devices your patients might already be using or might try using. Encouraging more engagement in activity between visits, and especially after discharge from therapy, can help patients avoid readmissions and other complications that arise from decreased activity and mobility.