Patient Engagement: How To Do It Right

Some healthcare providers have figured out the best set of IT tools to get patients more involved in their own care.

Paul Cerrato, Contributor

October 14, 2013

3 Min Read

7 Portals Powering Patient Engagement

7 Portals Powering Patient Engagement

7 Portals Powering Patient Engagement(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Every truism has a flip side. Take the Dunning-Kruger effect, for instance: "The truly incompetent can't even recognize their own incompetence," an observation that well describes today's dysfunctional Congress. The opposite of those words of wisdom might be: "The truly exceptional usually recognize their exceptional gifts."

In the latter category belong several healthcare organizations that are not just giving lip service to patient engagement but realize they are leading the charge with some disruptive, innovative IT-dependent tools.

The Cleveland Clinic, for instance, has done some impressive work in this arena. Many providers are offering patients the ability to make appointments on their websites, but Cleveland Clinic's family health centers now put their clinician's entire schedule up so that patients can make their own appointments. That's customer service.

They are also opening up their medical records in ways that most providers have been reluctant to do. They're putting lab results and medical imaging results online and eventually plan to post physicians' notes after each patient's visit. They also have a pilot project in the works that allows patients to enter data into their own records, which may help clinicians monitor patients' progress in controlling blood pressure, blood glucose and other measurable parameters.

[ Courting consumers: Online Service Aims To Simplify Hospital Bills.]

Mayo Clinic, not wanting to be left behind in the race to get patients more involved in their own care, has developed a popular app that originally started as a mobile map to help patients find their way around its huge campus. It has evolved to include appointment calendars, access to radiology and lab reports, even suggestions on where to eat when they come to the Rochester, Minn., facility. Patients can also see a portion of their electronic medical record, their medication lists and patient summaries.

Mayo is hoping to eventually include more interactive features in the mobile app. "Let's say you were using the symptom checker and found something you have a question about. You'd just push a button on your device and be connected to a care provider," says Mark D. Henderson, IT director at the Mayo Clinic's Center for Connected Care.

Patient engagement may have started as a Meaningful Use rule that providers had to follow to obtain electronic health record (EHR) financial incentives, but it has taken on a life of its own in several forward-thinking health systems. There's even a patient engagement index (PEI) available now that ranks U.S. hospitals in this area, state by state.

Provider organizations are ranked through an evaluation of their personal health management strategies, patient satisfaction scores and social media engagement, and each organization is given a overall score between 0 and 100. In the recent New York State competition, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Mount Sinai Medical Center tied for first place with a score of 72.

The National eHealth Collaborative has also taken a position on this issue, creating a Patient Engagement Framework that can serve as a model to help provider organizations improve their use of electronic health tools and resources.

The original Meaningful Use regulation on patient engagement requires that more than 50% of patients seen by clinicians receive timely, online access to their health information, and more than half of a provider's patients are supposed to receive a clinical summary of their visit. But Meaningful Use really only mandates Minimal Use; it's a jumping off point. If you want patient engagement done right, you have to start offering patients a lot more.

About the Author(s)

Paul Cerrato


Paul Cerrato has worked as a healthcare editor and writer for 30 years, including for InformationWeek Healthcare, Contemporary OBGYN, RN magazine and Advancing OBGYN, published by the Yale University School of Medicine. He has been extensively published in business and medical literature, including Business and Health and the Journal of the American Medical Association. He has also lectured at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and Westchester Medical Center.

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