Chronic Care-Focused ‘Genius Bars’ Offer Support For Wearables

While there are no signs a fully-fledged trend is emerging, at least a few healthcare organizations have established centers they compare to Apple’s Genius Bar stores.  The hospital outlets are designed to help patients learn how to use data-driven personal healthcare devices.

According to a piece appearing in Modern Healthcare, two technology and wearables centers were launched by New Jersey-based Inspira Health Network in 2017. Inspira CEO John DiAngelo told the magazine that the centers were dedicated to supporting its wellness program.

Anyone can come into one of the Health+ bars to try out and buy devices and wearables, all of which are vetted by Inspira staff working there.

However, Inspira established the centers to test whether patient-facing devices such as connected scales, glucometers and pulse oximeters could support chronically ill patients. Patients who are referred to a Health+ bar by a care coordinator get their wearable device at no cost.

Early results from the program suggest that it’s making an impact, with enrolled patients reporting that they were able to control physical discomfort and emotional distress related to their condition 20% to 50% better than before.

When combined with data monitoring by care teams, even these relatively simple devices are helping to reduce rehospitalizations. In fact, during a clinical trial, only one of 21 patients who participated was readmitted with 30 days of discharge.

Another organization testing the Genius Bar approach is the Louisiana-based Ochsner Health System, whose O Bar program supports its digital medicine programs supporting chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. When patients are enrolled in one of these chronic care management programs, doctors often refer patients to one of the health system’s seven O Bar sites to pick up wearables as well as medical equipment, Modern Healthcare reports.

Ochsner opened its first O Bar in 2014. Since then, traffic has been brisk at the centers, which average between 24,000 and 38,000 visits per year.

If Inspira and Ochsner’s experiences – as well as similar experiments by Baltimore/Washington-based MedStar Health – are any indication, there may be legs to this trend. There’s certainly some logic to making carefully vetted wearables freely available to patients, and as part of such efforts, offering them smart, sophisticated centers where they can get comfortable with these devices.

That being said, I confess to being curious as to how staffers and clinicians vetted the wearables available at the Bars. To my knowledge, there’s no one standard for how patient-generated data should be collected, formatted, accumulated or shared, so they must have other criteria. And if the other criteria are based more on hunches or anecdotal measures of effectiveness, is it wise to rely on the data such devices produce? Just some things to consider.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.