Measuring to improve: Why performance metrics and patient engagement go hand-in-hand

In the years since the healthcare community first adopted electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems, these technologies have come a long way in terms of improving both the patient and provider experience.

Of course, as with any technology—especially one used in the continually evolving field of health care—trial and error is both inescapable and necessary. EMRs and EHRs wouldn’t be what they are today if it weren’t for all of the providers who adopted, tested, and helped shape the development of these systems over the years.

As a result of this trial and error, the healthcare community has identified numerous ways to improve these incredibly important tools—by adding features and building integrations with other systems, for example. Still, many healthcare professionals fail to use those features in a way that actually increases efficiency and care quality. Research has confirmed that many providers aren’t leveraging their EHR or EMR software to its fullest. Specifically, there appears to be a gap in the number of organizations that use their software system’s performance and patient engagement features. According to a recent study, 80.5% of hospitals have implemented “at least a basic EHR system,” but only 37.5% “have adopted at least eight of 10 components measuring EHR use for performance measurement” and 41.7% “made use of at least eight of 10 patient engagement functions.”

Thus, it seems the majority of organizations aren’t prioritizing performance or patient engagement as much as they should. Furthermore, even those organizations that are prioritizing engagement aren’t taking advantage of valuable performance metrics. And therein lies a tremendous opportunity. After all, for this technology to rise to its full potential, it must allow patient engagement and performance metrics to work hand-in-hand. Here’s why:

Patient engagement
Before the age of value-based reimbursement, patient engagement meant spending a lot of one-on-one time with patients and discussing their health in person. And while that approach is certainly still relevant today, the rise of pay-for-quality programs—as well as the proliferation of digital technology—has changed the way we look at patient engagement. Now, providers are leaning more on software tools to communicate—and engage—with their patients. This allows them to scale their efforts and not only achieve better outcomes, but also help more people. For example, they may use targeted, automated messaging to provide patients with timely information that is relevant to their care plans. And that, in turn, keeps patients engaged in their treatment—it gives them a sense of ownership, which paves the way for even better outcomes. But, patient engagement is only one piece—albeit an incredibly important piece—of a more complex patient puzzle.

Patient satisfaction
There’s also the matter of patient satisfaction. We all know that today’s patients expect a better overall experience when it comes to their health care, and rightly so. They are, after all, footing a larger portion of the bill than ever before. My company, WebPT, recently conducted a rehab therapy industry-wide survey in which patient satisfaction ranked as one of the top two most important success metrics in inpatient hospital, outpatient hospital-based rehab, and skilled nursing facility settings (by contrast, it only ranked fifth for outpatient private practice settings).

Now, this could be the result of hospital-focused regulatory programs and financial incentives, which are putting more and more pressure on hospital systems to deliver better patient experiences. Regardless of the motivation, though, it’s wonderful to see providers—especially those in large healthcare organizations—placing greater emphasis on patient satisfaction. After all, patient engagement and satisfaction are both crucial to a healthcare system that not only puts patients at the center of their care journeys, but also continually supports them until they reach their destinations.

Performance data
Let’s be clear, though: for patients to be engaged—and satisfied—with their care, practitioners have to deliver exceptional outcomes. And without any mechanisms to measure provider performance, it’s impossible to know whether those providers are actually achieving the outcomes their patients want—something crucial to success in the new value-based paradigm.

That’s why advanced healthcare software platforms provide tools for tracking patient outcomes and patient satisfaction. That way, providers have access to timely, intuitive, comprehensive, clinically valid, and, most importantly, actionable feedback about the care they’re delivering—on the whole as well as to each individual patient. And sharing this information with patients throughout the course of their care can improve both patient engagement and satisfaction levels. It’s a true win-win. Plus, as the healthcare industry moves closer to achieving interoperability, providers across a patient’s entire care team will be able to not only access that patient's complete medical record, but also use it to make better treatment decisions.

The trifecta
Here’s another way of looking at it: when providers don’t prioritize patient engagement and satisfaction, they miss out on a big opportunity to make their patients true stakeholders in their health care. And if they don’t make it a point to measure and track performance and outcomes, they won’t know for certain if the care they’re prescribing and delivering is the absolute best it could be.

We already have the tools and technology necessary to do all of this. Now—just like those before us who shaped the evolution of EMRs and EHRs—we must adopt them, put them to the test, and drive their continued improvement. After all, patients should be both engaged and satisfied in their care, and providers should have access to a 360-degree view of their patients’ health. With this, we can achieve the quality of care we all want to see.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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