Friday, May 6, 2011

Top 10 Ways to Engage Patients with IT

Source: Healthcare IT News
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.
"Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Engaging Patients" was prepared by: Donna Scott, executive director of marketing strategy, RelayHealth; Howard Rosen, CEO, Life:Wire; Brad Tritle, president  and CEO, eHealth Trust Arizona; Shadaab Kanwal, director of clinical informatics, UCLA Health Sciences; Michael Brown, MD, chief information officer, Harvard University Health Services; Adam Clark, director of scientific and federal affairs, FasterCures, and member, ONC HIT Policy Committee; Pamela Law, MD, David Geffen School of Medicine '09, affiliated with Health 2.0; and Waco Hoover, CEO, Institute for Health Technology Transformation.
"The move toward new care delivery models means that patient engagement is increasing in importance to providers," said Scott. "This white paper provides to health-system executives some research and ideas that can drive their patient engagement strategies and help them take patient engagement to the next level."
"Patient engagement will play an increasingly important role in the delivery of care as the U.S. health system continually identifies mechanisms to help improve quality, safety and efficiency," added Hoover,  "The Institute hopes that research and collaborations among industry stakeholders, like the Patient Engagement Report, will provide beneficial strategies and tools."

Your patients are already getting and using health information online – shouldn't they be getting more from you? The report suggests providing patients with online health tools such as reminders, instructions and educational information about their diagnosis and treatments. 
 2. Patients are looking to connect with others about healthcare – isn't it time for you to enter this dialogue in a meaningful way? Social media is a key way to do this while building your brand, says the authors of the report. They recommend trying sites such as Facebook, Healthgrades, ICYou, Patientslikeme and Twitter.
3. It's not just "young people" who want to engage with your hospital and physicians online – are your patient outreach efforts targeted based on solid segmentation research? 
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."
4. Family caregivers can improve patient outcomes, but lack access to tools that can ease the burden of their work. Are you supporting them sufficiently with your services?
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.
5. Your patients trust you more than any other source for their personal health information.  Are you leveraging that trust?
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.
6. Our patients are mobile – and are already accessing and documenting health information wherever they are.  Are you meeting them where they are?
"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.
7. There are certainly many concerns that come with patient engagement. But, are you taking advantage of the many strategies and tactics to protect the security of your hospital and the privacy of your patients?
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."
8. Patient engagement improves health outcomes and it doesn't have to be expensive.  Are you taking advantage of the variety of inexpensive tools available to you?
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.
9. Don't think of patient engagement as just another ROI business case. Are you placing too many barriers on your team's creative patient engagement efforts?
"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."
10. Changing payment models means that patient engagement is no longer an "option". Are you still discussing its priority?
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.
Click here to download the report:

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