The Key to Meaningful Patient Engagement

Young Female Using Digital Tablet

After a sequestration cut to Meaningful Use payments in March, last month six senators expressed their concerns with the HITECH Act in a whitepaper delivered to the Department of Health & Human Services, asking for a reboot of the program. FierceEMR reports that consumer groups have responded in May with their comments, warning that pausing or delaying Meaningful Use would stifle innovation, hamper interoperability and postpone cost savings.

This is great evidence that consumers are expecting more from health IT and that consumers want to be engaged as partners in their care.

John Halamka and John P. Hoyt also wrote a perspective in a recent iHealthBeat supporting HITECH: “Congress needs to be sure to consider the positives of health IT when considering reductions in ACA-related spending… investments in updated technology now will improve patient care in the long run.”

But senators aren’t the only ones who are skeptical. FierceHealthIT reports that doctors are still hesitant to adopt health IT tools. More than 70 percent of physicians in a new Deloitte survey indicated that they think use of health IT tools ultimately will cost more, not less, and that the promise of reduced costs due to increased use is “inflated.”

The ultimate ruling on success or failure with health IT tools and meaningful use may rest on patients. With stage two requiring patient engagement, hospitals are curious to see if they can get 5% of patients to engage with their portals. Mayo Clinic presented results at HIMSS that show success is possible:

“The feedback from some 45,000 patients included appreciation for the peace of mind the patient portal offered, by allowing patients to review material in their home, to learn and digest it at their own pace. They also liked being in charge of their own healthcare, with the portal.”

MobiHealthNews notes Kaiser Permanente shared similar success with their portal at a pre-HIMSS symposium, noting “the fastest-growing groups of users are seniors and people with chronic diseases.”

Patient portals, however, are just the beginning – a good place to start a national push toward getting patients more involved with their care-related activities. The key to meaningful engagement is a sustained relationship with the patient, centered on a plan of care. While portals are good at handling transactional information like appointments, bills, lab reports, even the occasional email to the doctor – they aren’t designed to help patients navigate and track their care plans with their care teams.

Hospitals using a Patient Guidance System for acute care journeys have found up to 80% patient engagement, even with a senior audience. The key is giving people the information they want and need to know, in an easy to digest format, and making it interactive.

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