Remember the last time your doctor handed you a mile-high stack of papers on your treatment? For some patients at EvergreenHealth, those paper instructions will soon be a thing of the past.
Wellpepper, a Seattle-based digital treatment platform led by former Microsoft employees Anne Weiler and Mike Van Snellenberg, announced Wednesday that it is teaming up with EvergreenHealth to create interactive, electronic treatment plans for their patients.
Weiler says that the problem with paper instructions is that doctors don’t know if a patient understood them—and for patients, they can be hard to comprehend and follow.
Instead of sending instructions into a void, Wellpepper uses tools on a patient’s smartphone or tablet to help them stay on track. Doctors can use the Wellpepper Clinic app to set personalized programs for each patient, collect data on how patients are doing, and adjust treatments without a visit to the hospital.
“Think of it as translating paper instructions,” Weiler said, except the app does much more than just help patients stay on track. It also logs their data, giving healthcare teams a wealth of information on how their patients are doing: from taking medication regularly to how much they walk each day (thanks to the app’s integration with Fitbit devices).
EvergreenHealth will be using Wellpepper to connect with all patients undergoing total joint replacement and musculoskeletal care. That means a healthcare team will choose a specific treatment plan of each patient in their department: say, someone recovering from a knee replacement surgery.
When the patient logs in to their Wellpepper account, they can rate how they are feeling, log the exercises they did that day, and shoot their health team questions via Wellpepper’s internal chat. Patients can even watch a video of themselves doing physical therapy exercises—much easier than trying to interpret diagrams on a page.
EvergreenHealth has been using Wellpepper’s video function for over a year, and has been getting great results, according to Dr. Mark Freeborn, of EvergreenHealth’s Spine & Neurosurgical Care. The Kirkland-based health care system serves nearly 850,000 residents in northern King and southern Snohomish counties. Freeborn added that they plan on implementing more Wellpepper technology in other areas across their system.
“Across our organization, we strive to be a trusted source for innovative care solutions for our patients and families, and our partnership with Wellpepper helps us deliver on that commitment,” said EvergreenHealth CEO Bob Malte in a press release. “Since we began using Wellpepper in 2014, we’ve seen how the solution enhances the interaction between patients and providers and ultimately leads to optimal recovery and the best possible outcomes for our patients.”
At this point you may be thinking, sure, this sounds great for someone tech-focused, or young hip people who are always on their iPhones. But what about an older demographic, as people who have joint replacements tend to be?
Wellpepper has so far been used in two studies that involved seniors: one at Harvard, and one at Boston University. According to Weiler, patients over 50 years old actually tend to stick to their treatment plans better than younger demographics. Freeborn said EvergreenHealth has also seen this trend.
Being able to connect with patients in their home also removes obstacles to care, like needing time off work or finding transportation to hospital appointments. And of course, less visits to the hospital means lower healthcare costs.