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Open App Spotlight: Do patients know what those numbers mean?

Information is not knowledge. – Albert Einstein

Bits of information drive health care. A patient’s blood pressure is 140/90. Weight is 175 lbs. Blood glucose level is 190 mg/dL. And so on.

An electronic health record (EHR) can gather and organize all this stuff for clinicians. But what does it all mean to patients?

Physicians are always looking for ways to make patient education more meaningful to help improve outcomes. They want to translate EHR information into knowledge that will help bring better health.

To help bring meaning to EHR data, Galen Healthcare developed eCalcs integrated health calculators using Allscripts Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). It’s one of the apps that we recognized in Phase 1 of our Open App Challenge.

Turning information into knowledge that motivates

There are a number of health calculators currently online – like the Framingham Risk Calculator – that give context to patient data. They make it easy to show patients how changes can reduce risk – if you stop smoking, you’ll live longer.

But clinicians have to manually enter patient data into the calculators. Despite the potential insights gained, it simply takes too much time.

Galen’s eCalcs autopopulates info from a patient’s chart stored in the EHR directly into the calculator. The clinician can then easily use the risk calculators to share information with patients in a relatable way, at the point of care.

Most importantly, this app helps connect the dots for patients. They can see their own behavior on screen – not abstract figures.

Let’s say someone needs to lose 20 pounds. While he knows he should lose the weight, he goes for years without making any significant changes. Why? Because it’s still an abstract number. This tool can help the patient see how losing the weight will improve his blood pressure and eliminate a medication, it might be the motivation he needs to get going.

Already producing benefits

The way Galen developers built integrated health calculators is cool. And they pushed Allscripts to make it happen.  They helped us expand what our API does. We built some new commands so Galen could get data, because our success is their success.

About a dozen health systems with thousands of clinicians are currently using Galen eCalcs. Feedback from physicians is “thanks for providing this tool, you make my life so much easier.”

Galen is already working on ways to make eCalcs even easier to use with automatically calculating patients’ risk, and developing dozens of new calculators.

Being Open to innovation and collaboration

Helping patients and clinicians gain knowledge from EHRs is something we think a lot about at Allscripts. There are so many ways in which EHRs can improve health care – but only if we are Open to innovation and collaboration.

Here’s an illustration: In many ways, Allscripts EHR is like a sturdy car. We provide a great engine and frame to drive efficient healthcare record management. We focus on delivering solutions that help clients meet ever-evolving rules and regulations.

But, much like an automaker, we can’t do it all. Take Ford, for example. Does it make its own steel? Does it manufacture spark plugs and windshields? When the consumer wants a custom, add-on luggage rack, will Ford start making those, too?

No. It partners with other vendors that focus on excellence in each of those areas to meet consumer needs. That is an Open approach.

One of the reasons we’re so passionate about Open in health care is it enables innovation to provide the custom add-ons clinicians want – great apps. Galen’s eCalcs is just one example of how being Open creates new, better ways of delivering health care.

Editor’s Note: Open App Spotlight will feature other Allscripts Open App Challenge Phase 1 recipients over the next several weeks. The challenge reflects Allscripts commitment to being Open to innovation, and why Open matters to the future of health care. To learn more read the Open App Challenge news release, or to see stories like these in person, join us in Chicago this August at Allscripts Client Experience (ACE13).

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