In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

December 12, 2013

An app study with surgical precision

By Elizabeth Harty

iPad Surgical App

Back in February 2012, Mayo Clinic began a study that gave FitBit activity trackers, an iPad and an app called "MyCare" to 149 cardiac surgery patients to help them track and review every step of their surgical experience at Mayo -- from prep to recovery. And as recently reported, Mayo's David J. Cook, M.D., who led the study, says one result stood out from the rest: The level of engagement with the trackers, the iPad and the app throughout the study, which he says is "unprecedented." That can be traced back to usability, he says.

"Patient participation is completely dependent on usability," Dr. Cook tells MobiHealthNews. "Once you have a usable tool" he says, you get better results from "self-assessment and reporting" as well as better "data acquisition and aggregation." That, in turn, "can impact patient outcomes."

During the study, 149 patients were given trackers and iPads with the "MyCare" app installed and ready to go. The app, apparently, "interacted with patients bi-directionally." That's a fancy way of saying it did more than simply track what they input. The app also gave patients "a to-do list for the day" and assessed their mobility and pain levels, triggering alerts if things went south. "Patients are asked each day, through the day, what is their pain score," Dr. Cook says. "So patients can see their scores throughout the stay and, obviously, so can we."

If "alert levels" are hit, or if a patient's pain is "trending in the wrong direction," the app sends a signal to care providers at Mayo who can intervene with a targeted response. For example, if the algorithms indicate a need for physical therapy, a physical therapist, rather than the patient's physician, could respond directly.

And while the official results of the study won't be published until May, Dr. Cook did offer a few numbers to the good folks at MobiHealthNews. Like, all patients in the study "completed 98 percent of the 1,418 self-assessments we threw at them" while also completing "85 percent of their educational modules." And within those results, despite an age range of 52 to 85, Dr. Cook says he found "no discernible link" between a patient's age and the level of engagement or interest they showed with the app, the iPad or the activity trackers. The oldest patients in the study "were on average" every bit as engaged as their younger counterparts.

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Tags: Innovation, Research News

Is there a timeframe when the MyCare app will be released to the public or will it always be a Mayo patient app?

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