Patient Engagement is Key to Improving Health Outcomes

Why You Need More Than Just An EHR

In past blog posts we have highlighted the vital importance of healthcare for communities; which encompass community health services, homeless shelters, behavioral health resources and more. Today we want to switch gears and discuss patient engagement and the role that patients play in managing their individual healthcare needs.

According to Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), “A patient’s greater engagement in healthcare contributes to improved health outcomes, and information technologies can support engagement. Patients want to be engaged in their healthcare decision-making process, and those who are engaged as decision-makers in their care tend to be healthier and have better outcomes.”

At a recent Healthcare Leadership Conference at InterSystems Global Summit, patient engagement was defined as “an organization’s strategy to get patients involved in actively and knowledgeably managing their own health and wellness, and the health of family members.” This means patients:

  • Are actively learning about medical conditions they may be at risk of developing or may already suffer
  • Identify unhealthy habits, diets, etc., and replace them with healthier behaviors
  • Are knowledgeable of and have access to their own health records and health plans

In short, patients are partners with healthcare providers, working with them to improve their health.

Three Reason for Investing in Patient Engagement

At the InterSystems Global Summit, one blogger summarized three primary reasons why organizations are investing more and more on patient engagement.

The first reason is to ensure a smooth transition to value-based care. Trends have shown that the US is shifting from the traditional fee-for-service payment model to a value-based model where providers are held accountable for keeping people healthy. Given that the majority of health determinants fall within the scope of individuals’ daily lives rather than in primary care or emergency department facilities, it makes sense to have patients take a significant degree of stewardship over their own health.

The second reason, is the savings garnered through increased efficiency. Study after study has shown a significant waste, in the form of preventable emergency service use, redundant medical procedures, and courses of treatment. These expensive services can be curbed by helping individuals take control of their own healthcare plans.

The final reason discussed is patient retention. Quite simply, engaging patients is good customer service. Like any business, customers who feel neglected or who get the impression that a company doesn’t care much about them are less likely to return to that company. In a day and age where people rely heavily on online word-of-mouth and reviews, it can only be to the healthcare providers benefit to have a strong reputation for patient engagement.

Data Access is Key

For providers looking into technology that drives patient engagement, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently released a draft of their new Trusted Exchange Framework. According to the ONC, the vision they seek to achieve “is a system to securely access and use health information from different sources. A system where an individual’s health information is not limited to what is stored in electronic health records, but includes information from many different sources and provides a longitudinal picture of their health.”

The Framework seeks to create a single interoperability “on-ramp” by which all patients, providers, and other healthcare stakeholders can access relevant health data. “To scale interoperability nationwide and ensure that patients, providers across the care continuum, community and social services, and many more stakeholders can effectively and efficiently participate in interoperability, our goal is to use the successes in the industry to create the single ‘on-ramp’ we seek,” ONC wrote in the draft Framework. The proposed Framework supports four important outcomes:

  1. Providers can access health information about their patients, regardless of where the patient received care
  2. Patients can access their health information electronically without any special effort
  3. Providers and payer organizations accountable for managing benefits and the health of populations can receive necessary and appropriate information on a group of individuals without having to access one record at a time
  4. The health IT community has open and accessible application programming interfaces (APIs) to encourage entrepreneurial, user-focused innovation to make health information more accessible

The draft Framework is currently open for comment until February 18. ONC will then use the public comments to finalize the Framework.

Both patients and providers stand to benefit from an increased focus on patient engagement. We applaud the ONC’s efforts towards establishing an interoperable health system that promotes innovation at all levels and look forward to seeing the final draft of the Trusted Exchange Framework.


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