Case Studies

Utilizing Technology Specialists at Ochsner Health System

Ochsner Health System in southeast Louisiana manages 13 hospitals and more than 40 health centers. The nonprofit health system has more than 17,000 employees and over 2,700 affiliated physicians.

In 2014, Ochsner noticed a gap between the explosive growth of the health care technology field and the ability of patients to keep up. The system developed the “O Bar,” a retail health technology experience, to meet three needs:

  • Patients need help evaluating which of the thousands of available health and wellness apps will best complement their care plans.
  • Health devices must be synced with patients’ electronic health records to capture health information in real time.
  • Many patients need help setting up and understanding their apps and devices.

The O Bar, modeled after Apple’s Genius Bar concept, is staffed by technology specialists who act as navigators, helping each patient find the right product or app. Patients can walk in or be referred by a physician to find products geared toward wellness, nutrition, fitness, diabetes, women’s health and smoking cessation. In addition to apps, patients can find devices like Fitbits, Bluetooth blood glucose monitors, wireless blood pressure monitors and wireless scales. Once a patient has selected a product, an O Bar specialist helps the patient set it up, understand it and connect it to his or her electronic health record if appropriate.

Before the O Bar was initiated, physicians in the Ochsner system may have seen the potential of health technology, but most lacked the time or expertise to advise patients in its use. Now, the O Bar bridges that gap.

The resource is already proving useful for helping patients manage chronic conditions. Rather than relying on “once-in-a-while” data about things like blood pressure, patients and their providers can use at-home technology to monitor their conditions on the go, in real time. Concerning data trends might trigger a response from a pharmacist, health coach or physician, who can then follow up with the patient.

To capitalize on this capability, the O Bar has piloted or planned several tech-driven programs focused on specific health conditions, including heart failure, hypertension, pregnancy, COPD and diabetes. And the programs appear to be working; for example, the hypertension program improved patient adherence and more than doubled success over traditional treatment.

Lessons Learned

  • Health systems need to pay attention to what patients need, be it general tech support or specialized coaching around a specific health condition, and develop programs to match.
  • Programs like this will not provide immediate return on investment, but they will lead to improved health and better patient engagement in the long run.
  • The environment is changing. Innovative products might introduce risk, but hospitals and health systems need to create infrastructure now to meet the needs of the future.

Richard V. Milani, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Chief Clinical Transformation Officer
Vice Chairman for Cardiovascular Diseases

Giselle Hecker
Director, Public Relations

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