Health Organizations Struggle to Improve Patient Engagement

Most respondents who have an engagement strategy are using portal technology to meet current minimum meaningful use requirements for data sharing.

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Health care organizations are embracing patient engagement through strategies and investments centered on patient portals, according to a survey of executives from 114 health care organizations.

The study, sponsored by InterSystems, found that the top drivers for patient engagement are enhancing the health of the community (77 percent), building brand loyalty among patients (77 percent), and meeting meaningful use requirements (60 percent).

The survey defines patient engagement as an organization’s strategy to get patients involved in actively and knowledgeably managing their own and family members’ health and wellness. This can include reviewing and managing care records, learning about conditions, adopting healthy behaviors, making informed health care purchases, and interacting with care providers as a partner.

"The most important thing to focus on is establishing a culture of partnership between patients and care providers, Nelson Le, MD, a clinical advisor at InterSystems, told eWEEK. “This will require enabling connectivity technology to bring together a truly comprehensive patient record than spans the full spectrum of care providers. Both the culture and the enabling technology are needed to ensure the two-way dialog between care provider and patient that is at the heart of truly patient-centric care."

The survey also indicated that patient engagement initiatives often lack definitive leadership. Survey results show that multi-departmental/multi-role committees are the most common owners of an organization’s patient engagement strategy (26 percent).

Other owners of the strategy include the chief marketing officers (15 percent), followed by chief information officers (10 percent) and CEOs (8 percent).

To fully engage patients, leaders are looking for next-generation portals to offer the functionality that will enable patients to become partners in their own care. More specifically, they are seeking functionality such as e-visits or e-consultations (80 percent), interoperability across multiple providers (70 percent), health evaluation and coaching (70 percent), and tele-visits (50 percent).

In addition, 71 percent of health care organizations that have an engagement strategy are using portal technology to meet current minimum meaningful use requirements for functionality and data sharing from a single source. Another 54 percent are using portals that offer a combination of patient services, technology and content.

Just over half (51 percent) are using portals as a configurable, interoperable information exchange platform with data sharing from multiple sources, and overall, about two-thirds of these respondents are using portals provided by their electronic health record (EHR) vendors.

"Mobile is a necessary and game-changing technology for patient engagement. With mobile devices, patients can continually manage their health, anytime, anywhere. Ideally the data from medical devices and wearables will flow automatically into the patient’s record, without requiring manual data entry," Le said. "Mobile devices can also provide access to patient education, such as fitness tips, nutrition resources, and health coaches. Being actively engaged with your health can transform healthier choices into healthier behaviors.”