Evaluating the Importance of Tools in Patient Engagement

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Tuesday, 17 December 2013 19:20

Will patients embrace an active role in their own care? As deadlines approach for “meaningful use” of technology to increase patient engagement, health care providers are challenged to convince at least 5 percent of patients to communicate electronically about their care. Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy to do so: it will take a mix of electronic medical records, surveys and self-registration to increase your chances of success.

Patient portals through traditional websites and mobile apps may empower patients no matter where they are – serving as centers of information. But how can you increase interaction? University of Colorado Health is piloting tools to engage patients before and after discharge through wellness, fitness and nutrition tips. A smartphone app allows a person to measure progress in areas such as weight and blood pressure while also allowing physician access so they can delve into the data and better understand the patient’s condition.

While surveys have been used in healthcare to measure satisfaction, there are some new uses. They can be developed to better assess patients’ understanding of test results and post-treatment care. Deploying the surveys can occur in many formats. In addition to phone calls and emails, tablets and computer kiosks can be used to capture information while the patient is still on site. The quality of the survey data can also be increased through education on why the survey results are important for the patient.

A third opportunity exists with self-registration. Scottsdale Healthcare recently conducted a case study with a personal health record where patients could create or update their record before surgical admission. Thus, pre-admission testing could be tailored to the patient’s unique needs. In addition to improved patient satisfaction and outcomes, a six-week cost analysis of preoperative testing routines, there was $244 in savings per surgical patient. Astoundingly, 100% of patients felt the PHR was easy to use. Ultimately the tool can be integrated with surgical scheduling and clinical data to an inpatient electronic medical record.

While there may be concerns about technological skill levels among patients, using multiple tools and formats can ultimately help improve interactions with patients to meet the federal incentive program goals.