How Can Your Health IT Improve Patient Engagement

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TL;DR
A recent study suggests that patients are supportive of physicians using EHR’s in their practice. This article lays out several strategies that can help improve patient care and patient engagement.

Engagement in Healthcare

The National Partnership for Women & Families released a study titled Engaging Patients and Families: How Consumers Value and Use Health IT, which shows that patients are increasingly supportive of using EHRs at their doctor’s office. Based on its findings, this study offers 7 strategies for health IT to improve patient engagement. Implementing each of these strategies can help improve patient care, patient-provider communication, and the overall patient-provider relationship.

  1.  Adopt and Use EHRs: Data suggests patients are more likely to be satisfied with EHRs than with paper records. Providers should continue to utilize the software to improve care quality. 70% of respondents felt EHRs had a positive impact on quality of care compared to only 34% of respondents saying the same for paper records.
  2. Convenience Features: Electronic records enable services such as online scheduling, patient portals, e-prescribing, and refill requests, which allow easy access for patients. By integrating these features in their EHR systems, providers can ensure optimal care better engage patients.
  3. Online Access to Personal Health Data: Patients who are able to access their health information online are better informed and are more likely to implement better health and wellness habits. This is one of the key services providers should be sure to offer. 78% of respondents have reported online access has had a positive impact in their ability to communicate with their doctors and 63% have reported a positive impact on their ability to correct information in their medical records. Having access to their health data encourages patients to become more involved in their care and improve their health.
  4. Electronic Communication and Information Sharing: Patients expect to be able to directly communicate with their providers and share their data regarding medical history, family information, data from other providers, etc. Aggregating information from both patient and physician creates a well-rounded profile of the patient and can be fundamental in providing exceptional healthcare.
  5. Health and Care Planning: Health IT can help patients to plan their care outside of a clinical environment, which, according to the study, is ‘the holy grail of patient engagement.” However, patients have reported that the current functionality is not as advanced as they would prefer. The next step is for developers and providers to work together with patient input and incorporate a more enhanced tool into EHR systems.
  6. Privacy and Trust: The more informed patients are about how their information is used and kept safe, the more they trust that the data is protected and that their privacy isn’t at risk. Allowing patients online access will help them understand the safety of their records and aid in developing this trust. 88% of respondents with electronic records and 82% of respondents with paper records felt it was important to know how their information was collected and used. Providers should make it a priority to educate patients regarding their data collection, exchange and security policies.
  7. Designing and Building for Diversity: America is a nation built on diversity. The population includes immigrants, LGBT communities, people with disabilities, and those who speak other languages. The study shows that 53% of Hispanic individuals, 49% of LGBT individuals, and 44% of Asian individuals would like mobile access to their data. 69% of African Americans are concerned about the safety of their medical information with EHRs. 60.5 million people in the US speak a language other than English at home. The diverse groups across the country have diverse barriers. Providers need to identify the specific needs of these groups and address them.

Author: Apoorva Anupindi