Creating a Patient Engagement Strategy

The term "patient engagement" has become entrenched in the healthcare lexicon. Many healthcare networks and payers are now striving to achieve the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Triple Aim:

  1. Improve the patient experience of care (quality and satisfaction)
  2. Improve the health of populations
  3. Reduce the cost of care
Statistics about patient engagement
However, most patient records exist within disparate EMR systems that require patients to navigate a complex health system and retrieve their records from multiple locations.

But, as a recent National eHealth Collaborative survey of members of the HIE Learning Network indicated, only 8% of providers surveyed said they have a "very clearly defined patient engagement strategy"—even though 53% of respondents said patient engagement is a high or very high priority.

Building a Solid Patient Engagement Technology Strategy

Healthcare providers can implement a health information technology strategy that will go beyond just "checking the box" of Meaningful Use patient engagement requirements, and instead leverage the power of technology to build a solid foundation for achieving longer-term patient engagement goals. This technology should include:

An HIE Platform That Goes Beyond Meaningful Use
To successfully engage patients in their care, care delivery must be tightly aligned across physicians, payers, laboratories, pharmacies, and others who support any given patient. Each member of the broader care team must be able to share relevant, accurate patient information with the others in a timely manner
Proven Interoperability Without Forklift Upgrades
The evolution of our current healthcare silos is based on the historical practice of healthcare as a local system. However, as the industry consolidates and transforms into new care delivery models, such as patient-centered medical homes and Accountable Care Organizations, a critical need for true interoperability between existing discrete and separate EMRs or other technology will continue
Comprehensive & Historical Patient Records
A longitudinal patient record includes the patient's medical history across care settings and time. It provides one view of the patient that chronicles diseases, major and minor illnesses, vital signs, and diagnostic test data. It gives the clinician a feel for what has previously happened to the patient. As a result, it may often reveal clues to current disease states and identify gaps in care. For physicians to take the first step in patient engagement, they must first consider the patient as a key member of the care team. Once that is established, the patient's longitudinal record must be at the fingertips of the care team, easily accessible from one place, and able to be fed electronically to the EMR
Effective Patient Identity Management Methods
To create a comprehensive and historical patient record, patient records from disparate systems need to be properly linked. This presents a major hurdle related to patient identity management. The challenge for providers in accurately identifying a patient across a wide system of physicians, hospitals, patients, and payers lies in unifying fragmented records that use different patient identifiers across disparate health information technologies and settings of care. The need for a patient identity management system that offers maximum flexibility and interoperability with existing EMRs through the health system is critical to solve this problem
A User-Friendly Patient Information Platform
The technology approach should be able to provide patients with user-friendly online tools that lead to better outcomes and cost-efficient care, including secure messaging, PHR, understandable test results, prescription refills, and patient education. One example of a patient-centered platform is a tool that automatically notifies the patient when new information has been added to his or her record
A Scalable Approach to Closing Gaps in Care
Once a subset of the population with gaps in care is identified, messages need to be delivered to the patient to notify him or her of the gap in care and provide a next step to close the gap. Based on patient preferences, notifications may take the form of an email, a text message, a message from organization's patient portal, a human phone call, or an IVR phone call. All notifications should have a call to action. Electronic notifications should have a link back to a website or provide a phone number to reach the physician's office or a call center. It should be clear whether patients should schedule an appointment or take some other action. Tools must allow for automated, high-volume interventions to reach patients in the fastest, most cost-effective manner.
An Extension of Care Management
A small subset of patients consumes a large percentage of healthcare dollars. Organizations require care management processes that extend to the patient's home to prevent worsening of health status and ensure intervention at the earliest signs of deterioration. Once a patient is stratified to be in a high-intensity care management program, he or she is placed in a program and a care plan is defined. After the care plan is communicated to the patient, the organization needs tools to:
  • Reinforce the care plan
  • Educate the patient on his or her condition
  • Remind the patient to perform certain tasks
  • Gather information from the patient on health status
  • Capture information from devices in the home
  • Facilitate communication between the patient and the care manager
If there are any indications of worsening of the patient condition, they need to be communicated to the care manager. The system should provide surveillance, communication, and escalation mechanisms if the patient’s condition changes significantly
Effective Patient Education
For patients who have moderate-to-low levels of disease severity, there is an ongoing need to improve the patient's compliance, education, and understanding of how to maintain wellness. These individuals are not typically enrolled in a high-intensity care management program, yet they need to remain activated and engaged to prevent escalations of their conditions. Emerging patient education tools and solutions aim to provide ongoing educational and motivational support in an electronic format. For an organization with value-based contracts, these tools provide a low-cost, highly effective way to help patients self-manage and control their conditions—and to recognize any signs of deterioration. These patient engagement solutions can also identify new opportunities for patients not enrolled in other programs

Foster patient engagement by giving patients access to their own medical records using Relay Health's patient portal and HIE solution.

Next: Physician engagement in population health