Beyond debate is the connection between patient engagement and outcomes. Health care providers whose patients are more engaged in their own care achieve better clinical outcomes and better cost results than providers whose patients are less engaged.
Seven recent reports, surveys and published research articles provide insights on strategies, tactics and techniques providers can use to effectively engage patients in their own care.
1. Biometric measurement devices are effective technologies to engage patients
That’s according to a survey of 595 provider organization executives conducted by . In the survey, 85 percent of the respondents cited biometric measurement devices like wireless scales and glucometers as “extremely effective,” “very effective” or “effective” in engaging patients. Second and third, respectively, were mobile applications for smartphones (75 percent) and secure texting (70 percent). The top three uses of engagement technologies cited by the execs were chronic disease management (81 percent), support for medication adherence (66 percent) and fitness tracking (46 percent).
2. Patient engagement should be planned, delivered, managed and continuously improved
That’s according to a discussion paper from the . The paper offers a blueprint for an effective patient engagement program. The framework features four processes: data collection, continuous feedback, increasing co-creation and monitoring. The core elements are: organizational foundations, strategic inputs, practice outputs and engagement outcomes. The four engagement outcomes are: better culture, better care, better health and lower costs. Such programs must be an “active partnership with patients and their families to ensure integration of their health and health care goals, preferences and values,” the paper said.
3. Make it easier for patients to access their own health information online
That’s according to a survey of 200 patients with chronic medical conditions and 200 physicians and physician assistants conducted by . 76 percent of the provider respondents said they offer online portals to patients, 53 percent use secure e-mail, 25 percent use mobile applications and 21 percent use secure texting. Yet, 89 percent of the patient respondents said they would like easier access to their personal health records with only 29 percent giving providers an A grade for their use of technology to engage their patients.
4. Connect patients’ mobile health data to their personal health records
That’s the takeaway from a survey of about 2,600 adults who had a doctor visit within the past year. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents—64 percent—said they used a digital health device. The most popular were fitness trackers (31 percent) and blood pressure gauges (24 percent). The least popular were mobile heart rate apps (15 percent) and mobile blood pressure apps (12 percent). Regardless of device, 71 percent of the respondents said they thought it would be helpful for their providers to have their patient-generated health data integrated into their medical histories.
5. Select an EHR vendor with a track record of online patient access to health data
According to a report to Congress on patients’ use of electronic health data, the percentage of patients who accessed their own health information online varied significantly by EHR vendor. In its report, the GAO found that overall 87 percent of physicians offered their patients access to their own health information online. But, only 30 percent of patients actually did so. The GAO compared the patient access rates of 10 different EHR systems used by the physicians. The rate varied from a low of 10 percent to a high of 48 percent, depending on the vendor.
6. Understand patients’ electronic preferences for receiving specific types of health information
That’s the lesson from a study in the . In the study, researchers surveyed 195 patients who previously had laboratory tests performed at a hospital and had access to the Internet. All of the surveyed patients said they would prefer to receive their lab test results online with 98 percent wanting access to the results the same day they’re available. Some 52.5 percent preferred to be notified by e-mail, and 47.5 percent preferred accessing results through a portal on the hospital’s website. The No. 1 reason respondents wanted electronic access was “saving time,” cited by 77 of the patients.
7. Offer technology training and support to help patients access educational materials online
According to a study in the journal , forgetting passwords and the lack of experience using technology were the two most common barriers preventing pregnant women from accessing prenatal patient education content online. In the study, researchers evaluated the use of an online maternity education platform by 16 Medicaid recipients receiving prenatal care at a New York hospital. Some 12 of the 16 patients logged on to the system with usage “varying widely,” according to the study. Those who used it most gave the platform high marks for usability and user satisfaction. The two biggest obstacles were forgetting their passwords and their inexperience using technology. “Users’ desire for easy access to content must be balanced against the need to safeguard protected health information,” the researchers said. “Digital newcomers may require in-person technical support.”
Collectively, the reports, surveys and published research articles point to the need for providers to design patient engagement programs and technologies that reflect what patients’ need in terms of personal health information and ease of use. Providers whose programs and technologies reflect what they need will continue to struggle to engage patients in their own care.