Medical staff at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, have long been believers in meditation as a powerful integrative wellness method. However, many of the staff’s issues with the use of meditation in a clinical environment revolve around the consistency of meditations, the variety of meditations, and the scalability of meditation.
In looking for a way to provide consistency to patients, Hartford Hospital sought to partner with a local company with expertise in both meditation and technology that thought in a similar way to the hospital’s staff.
“Our partnership requirements included four things,” said Dr. Eric R. Secor, chief of integrative medicine at Hartford Hospital. “First, provider and practitioner involvement in the process. Second, high-grade, consistent meditations designed using an evidence-based rubric. Third, ease of access. And fourth, the ability to track the patient’s use of the meditations.”
Hospital staff need to understand who is using meditation, how often they are using meditations, and which ones they are using. In addition, the ability to collect data on outcomes was a critical decision-making factor for staff.
Hartford Hospital went with MediGrade, a vendor of machine learning-powered mobile health technology designed to reshape pain therapy and enhance self-care.
“The company was very proactive in working with granting agencies such as the Connecticut Innovations, the state of Connecticut’s venture arm, to raise funds with the goal of collecting data,” Secor explained. “In my 25 years in integrative medicine, we have seen a wide variety of breadth and depth of experience of folks who wanted to provide meditations, whether it be in hospital, in the ambulatory setting, or in group settings. All these folks, although well-meaning, had such a wide diversity in experience and certifications that it was very difficult to provide a consistent meditation experience.”
The nice thing about the mobile health platform, he added, is once it’s built and deployed, anyone within the hospital, in the ambulatory setting or at home can use the same, consistent meditation no matter where they are being seen throughout the health system.
Meeting the Challenge
“Our app, which is now in a clinical pilot, eliminates the dependency on individualized meditation facilitators and the logistics of hosting group meditation events,” Secor said. “Our app provides us with a reliable, consistent, data-driven solution that allows us to solve the issues and bridge the gap.”
To start, staff has deployed the m-health, machine learning meditation app to patients who are being treated for chronic pain, specifically neck pain, back pain, neuropathy, and migraine headache. Future integration with Hartford Hospital’s Epic EHR is in the early planning stages. Staff also is piloting bringing in telehealth access into Epic MyChart Plus to broaden use on the patient end.
Secor is in the process of writing the next innovations grant and preparing to analyze clinical pilot data.
“We’ve learned a lot about not only partnering with the folks on the digital meditation side, but also who are the champions for meditation within our system,” he said. “This grant had two big phases. Phase one was to build and deploy a white-labelled app within Hartford Healthcare, which we have achieved. Phase two was to launch a feasibility pilot, which is underway.”
Now there is widespread interest in the digital delivery of meditation across the organization. In the process of building the app, it was surprising to Secor that there were more interested parties among more subspecialists than he ever thought possible.
“Just in the process of hearing about the app, downloading the app and trying the app, we generated interest from specialists in addiction, orthopedics, oncology, women’s health, and migraine headache,” he noted. “Our migraine center is now interested in customizing some aspect of the app in their practice for their patients.”
Advice for Others
“Partner with reputable people who understand how health systems operate and are reliable business partners,” Secor advised. “Your partner should possess expertise in delivering a high-quality application, but also offer evidence-based rubric in their writing that includes provider and patient input, high-quality voiceover talent, and custom-composed ambient music. Your partner should be able to edit, update, and change your app with agility, and be flexible.”
This movement is advancing Hartford Hospital’s patients’ ability to become even more active members on their own wellness team, Secor concluded.