Raj Gupta, M.D., would tell his cardiac patients that exercising more and eating healthier foods would reduce their chances of returning to the hospital. 

But it was hard to get them to change their behavior and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

“I’m always frustrated by how difficult it is to change behavior,” says Gupta, who is Newton (Mass.)-Wellesley Hospital’s director of prevention for cardiology. “I’ll have a great conversation with a patient. I’ll outline the reasons why they need to lose weight or eat less saturated fat. But since I see them so infrequently it’s hard to make that impact that will completely change their lives.”

In an effort to change patients’ behavior, the hospital last year teamed up with Cambridge-Mass.-based Twine Health to launch an apps-based initiative that allows caregivers to check in with their patients and help them follow through on their health goals. 

After they are discharged from the hospital, patients meet with the health coach during an office visit to their cardiologist. They download the apps and work with the coach to set up a care plan.

Goals can be as simple as drinking eight glasses of water a day or as difficult as losing 20 pounds in six months.

One feature of the apps lets coaches scan a dashboard of their patients that flags issues and numbers trending the wrong way. 

“We focus on exercising more, eating better, managing stress … the things that prevent cardiac issues,” says Daniel Destin, the manager of the hospital’s fitness center and one of three coaches in the program.

About 120 patients so far have participated in the program. Patients typical stay in the program typically for 12 weeks, but they can tracking their progress with the apps on for months more. 

“Some patients achieve their goals in 12 weeks and move on,” Destin says. “Others stay longer because they enjoy the support they get from working with a health coach. 

The hospital soon plans to begin offering the apps and personalized health coaches to employees as part of an initiative to encourage staff to be4come more physically active.

While the hospital has not yet analyzed the program’s impact on cardiac-related readmissions, “we have seen improvements in patient engagement, physical activity and weight loss,” says cardiology chief George Philippides, M.D.

“These connective technologies have the potential to change patient behavior … and positively impact health metrics and readmissions,” he adds.