The evolution of patient engagement

Today's innovation has made technologies from a year or two ago feel outdated. That might seem like an exaggeration, but look at the evolving capabilities from iPhone model to iPhone model and it becomes clear, technological innovation is on a rapid pace. But what does this tech evolution mean for the patient? And what does it mean as we begin thinking about patients as healthcare consumers?

This content is sponsored by Allscripts. 

The beginning of what's next
Healthcare organizations have a tremendous opportunity to reach patients and enable them to take a more active role in their care. Patients who are more actively involved in their healthcare tend to have better outcomes, resulting in lower costs. Value-based payment models have increased the importance of these measures — so getting patients engaged has become mission-critical.

As consumers continue gravitating toward mobile devices to participate in health and wellness, I have recommendations on where healthcare organizations can focus to help their patients get the most value — clinically and financially — to be engaged with their care.

Giving the patients what they need to stay healthy
The biggest way providers can use technology is to help close avoidable gaps in care. As a result, today's healthcare providers need solutions that do not require patients to log into a patient portal. They need solutions that deliver SMS messages with weblinks making it easier to execute specific care tasks across the continuum. This can be especially valuable for patients with one or multiple chronic conditions. With text-messaging capability, patients who missed their three-month appointment would receive a reminder via text message, which'll include a link to reschedule that appointment on their phone.

To better illustrate this point, one health system stated in a recent patient engagement KLAS report that shifting to texting patients drove patient engagement.1 "We ended up with a real mobile connection with our patients," the health system's executive said, citing a 50 percent response rate to texts. "We don't send emails because people don't read emails anymore." Real-time texts are sent automatically for very specific reasons, such as preparing for a visit, receiving important educational content, setting up appointments or speaking with a physician. Because patients use their mobile devices for everything from communication to banking, providers need to think about meeting patients where they are.

Telehealth: Reaching beyond the standard patient visit
Regardless of job, location or other life factors, it can be difficult for people to reach doctors, for their own health need, or those of their loved ones. Patients can leave messages, and due to their busy schedules are not available for call backs, or maybe they don't have the flexibility to take their children to the pediatrician during normal business hours. Often their only option is to go to an urgent care center in the evening. There is nothing uncommon about these scenarios, which is why many healthcare organizations are losing business to urgent care centers and minute clinics. Patients are willing to pay a little more for convenience when it comes to urgent, episodic care. Telehealth is a hot topic and most people immediately jump to the idea of a virtual video visit.

There's no question that video visits are a wonderful option for some providers and patients. But sometimes physician offices will start with email visits as a more economical telehealth option. Email visits, or eVisits, are based on asynchronous secure messaging. Patients register their chief complaint, respond to related questions and expect a response within a short period of time. Clinicians can watch this queue and treat patients, or delegate tasks, via technology without the overhead or administrative staff costs associated with regular office visits.

Proof point: Better engagement improves outcomes and experience
Nicklaus Children's Health System in Florida transformed to a patient-centric care delivery model that resulted in improved patient care, better health outcomes and higher Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems quality scores.

The system used FollowMyHealth® to drive patient engagement from 5 percent to 75 percent.

"FollowMyHealth is helping us push the envelope by putting vital information in the hands of patients and their families via the consumer technology they use every day — cellphones, mobile apps and text messaging," said Ed Martinez, CIO of Nicklaus Children's Hospital and senior vice president of Nicklaus Children's Health System.

By going paperless and digitizing the registration process, the organization saved $4-8 per patient visit while achieving 94 percent patient satisfaction by establishing an easy way for physicians and patients to communicate digitally.

This transformation also highlights another important facet of patient care: the patient's family. As I mentioned earlier, families of patients are integral to their health, especially when the patient is a child.

FollowMyHealth provides timely, relevant information to a patient's family regarding their loved one's progress, daily schedule, prescriptions, at-home care, discharge and more. The system automatically sends doctors' notes to families that they can print at home or display on a mobile device. In a postcare survey, 94 percent of respondents said these types of digital communications were helpful resources.

There are many ways a well-planned and diligently executed patient engagement strategy can help patients achieve better health outcomes. As an industry, the key to reaching patients more effectively is by enabling them to be in control of the way they want to communicate. When adapting to meet modern patients' needs, we cannot forget that in today's evolving world, patients are consumers. They are expanding their means of meaningful communication beyond face-to-face interactions using the devices they've grown to rely on. So why not enable them to expand this reach with their healthcare providers, too?

Kim Franks, Allscripts Vice President and General Manager of Consumer Health, joined the company in 2013 as Vice President of Product Management. Three years later, she assumed her current role as Vice President and General Manager of Allscripts FollowMyHealth. Prior to her time at Allscripts, Kim was part of the Springfield Clinic, first as an RN and later as a Clinical Informatics expert. While there, Kim implemented more than 350 physicians on a new EHR, and helped the office convert from paper-based to fully electronic. Kim has also been an Oncology Nurse at St. John's hospital and earned her BSN from St. John's College.

1 HealthGrid. (n.d.). KLAS 2017 PAtient Engagement Performance Report (Rep.).
doi: Patient Engagement 2017
Presentation PDF.pdf

More articles on health IT:
What's next for FHIR? 5 notes on version 5
Allscripts opens precision medicine program to employees
Vanderbilt researchers to develop EHR voice assistant, advise Epic on similar projects

© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2019. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.


Top 40 Articles from the Past 6 Months