Written by: Healthcare IT News Staff
The Institute for Health Technology Transformation has released a report that compiles what key health IT experts from across the United States view as the best ways to engage patients in the digital age.
According to Pew Research social networking site usage grew 88 percent among Internet users aged 50-64 between April 2009 and May 2010. The report also points out that there is a "'second degree' Internet usage phenomenon, with caregivers and family members going online on our elders' behalf."
Offering caregivers tools like personal health records, online assessments, concierge services and communication portals among other things "is an opportunity to differentiate your practice, hospital or health system," says the report.
In a study by the California Healthcare Foundation 58 percent of adults without a PHR would be interested in using one if the PHR were offered by their hospital or medical practice (compared to 50 percent if offered by payer and only 25 percent by Google or Microsoft or their employer). But the report pointed out that the majority of patients with a PHR today are getting them from their payer.
"Patient use of smartphone applications to track their health without the guidance of practitioners comes with concerns;" says the report. "For instance, easily accessible smartphone applications are currently unmonitored to ensure the health information and advice they give is accurate and follows best practices. Further, through such applications it is possible to easily track enormous amounts of personal data, but it can be unclear how such information leads to better healthcare outcomes." Authors pose the question whether providers are prepared to accommodate and respond to patients who bring their smartphones and tablets to their appointment to share data.
Authors say that it is important to be investigating technologies to improve privacy, security, integrity of medical records, liability, increasing disparities in healthcare and payment issues. But they also point out that "Patients want these tools, and many patients are willing to display flexibility to address these concerns in return for more access to their physician and/or better information."
For example, Lee Aase, director of the Center for Social Media at Mayo Clinic, specified that the total cost for the Mayo Clinic Facebook, YouTube and Twitter was $0.00 and the annual cost for a customized blog was $75.
"The benefit of patient engagement tools to the financial bottom line is not a straightforward calculation," says the report. However it says, "the financial benefits exist, and patient engagement tools can have a dramatic affect on your organization."
The report says, "healthcare organizations must react strategically to this changing landscape in payment models, particularly in accordance with risk sharing." Authors say that patient engagement is a big part of this equation and that technology is the "most economical, pervasive, and accessible" way to do this.