With the introduction of Meaningful Use Stage 2, patient engagement has gone from nice-to-have to necessary, and that transition requires hospital systems and physician practices across the country to look to tools to aid in the process.
For example, specific regulations focusing on greater levels of patient engagement include the use of secure messaging to communicate with patients on relevant health information--something vendors like WellFX are attempting to do. Similarly PatientPoint, a provider of physician and patient engagement platforms at the point of care, aids in the rule requiring patients to view online and download their health information.
"We're trying to get our consumers and patients to take more responsibility for their healthcare and, to do that, we need to engage those patients and consumers and find ways to make having to do more an enjoyable process [for patients]," said Christina Thielst, VP at patient experience consulting group Tower Strategies, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.
The social component of patient engagement is necessary to make this happen, continued Thielst, and is something that should exist in any patient engagement system. "We look at apps for motivational purposes--if we want to get a patient to lose weight, stay sober, or stop smoking, one of the best ways to support them is to create a social component where friends and followers provide that extra bit of encouragement and coaching they need," she said.
Although the patient plays a major role in the engagement movement, Dan Martich, MD, CMIO at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, believes physicians are being called on to change their workflows as well, all with the help of IT. In turn, he said, patient engagement is heightened when physicians feel comfortable with the technology at their disposal.
"There's a confluence coming with Meaningful Use Stage 2," Martich said in an interview. "It's changing the way physicians document, and it's putting more burdens on us. I don't know how this perfect storm is going to play out, but it's a huge opportunity for health IT to solve a big and growing problem."
Indeed, health IT could be a solution to the problem, but a key aspect of the success of these tools lies in the way they're presented to patients. Thielst said providers should avoid offering "an app here or a game here." An enterprise portal, she said, shows the range of technologies available without overwhelming the patient. "It's about facilitating the learning process and finding ways of offering the range of opportunities to people in a seamless way, rather than have a bunch of separate systems and tools out there patients have to hunt and find," she said.
Whether one looks at patient portals, mobile apps, or social engagement platforms, it is obvious that health IT systems focused on patient engagement are growing by leaps and bounds. Click through to see seven helpful patient engagement systems, designed to benefit both doctor and patient.