3 health IT experts weigh in on providing choice in patient engagement

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Patients are seeking greater control over their healthcare decisions. However, despite a growing emphasis on patient experience under value-based care models, hospitals still struggle to provide patients with the care they demand.

"When you consider patient engagement in healthcare, it's relatively a new concept," Ed Martinez, senior vice president and CIO of Miami Children's Health System, said during a Nov. 14 workshop at the Becker's Hospital Review 6th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable in Chicago.

For hospitals, a foundational strategy to engage patients in their healthcare journey is ensuring access to medical records for those who request it. National legislation such as HIPAA requires healthcare providers offer patients this capability, establishing patients' right to obtain copies of their medical records with limited exceptions.

"That's the law," said Aneesh Chopra, president of CareJourney, a healthcare analytics company focused on population health. "Every patient not only has the legal right to [get an electronic copy of their records], but they have the right to have it delivered ... in any format they want. It's like Burger King: 'Have it your way,’ provided it is readily producible.”

Still, Mr. Chopra, who served as the U.S. chief technology officer during the Obama administration, noted the majority of patients aren't presented with the option to receive information from their medical records — and they likely don't know they can request it. He added providing patients with medical information might help to ease difficult portions of the care journey, such as hospital discharges.

"In a value-based care world … you care a lot about what happens to that patient after they're discharged," he said. "The care transition is among the most sensitive times, when we have an opportunity to shine as a healthcare delivery system … to make sure that patients are properly cared for, educated on the discharge plan [and] working and engaging on [their] medications."

To continue to engage patients through care transitions, Mr. Martinez noted how Miami Children's Health System switched from an "opt-in" to an "opt-out" strategy for discharge instructions. That is, rather than wait for a patient to request access to discharge information, the health system automatically delivers these instructions to a patient following a clinical encounter.

The first step to Miami Children's Health System's patient engagement vision was establishing the best method to reach their patient population. "[Online] portals are not places where patients go," said Raj Toleti, CEO of HealthGrid, a patient engagement and customer relationship management company that works with Miami Children's Health System.

"You need to go where patients are," Mr. Toleti continued, adding patients may be more prone to use technologies like smartphones or iPads.

At Miami Children's Health System, officials decided to deliver discharge instructions to each patient via text message. Following the initial message, the patient can opt out of the clinical communication or receive relevant documents in a different format.

"We take a page out of the hospitality business," Mr. Martinez explained. "Whether it's Ritz-Carlton or Disney World — whatever you want to tailor this after — they don't ask you, 'How would you like your sheets?' They do it for you, and if you'd like it a different way, they'll tailor that, as well."

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