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Promoting Positive Outcomes with Communication and Technology
By Jonathan Karl
Patient engagement is emerging as a top priority in the healthcare community as growing evidence shows a strong link between more involved patients and improved outcomes. Meaningful Use requirements and the US healthcare system’s shift to a pay-for-performance model are two other driving forces behind this important development.
With these priorities and pressures in mind, it’s important to look at where providers are making progress in encouraging greater patient engagement and what still lies ahead. To better understand how this movement is influencing patient and provider priorities, motivations and behavior, CDW Healthcare surveyed 200 physicians and physician assistants and 200 patients for its Patient Engagement Perspectives report, uncovering pain points, areas for improvement and new insights into how communication and technology are shaping the patient engagement equation.
Patient Engagement Priorities
Our survey found that 60 percent of providers say improving patient engagement is a top priority at their organization, citing top motivating factors including it being an important part of improving overall care (70 percent), technology advancements (64 percent) and Meaningful Use requirements (46 percent). However, although providers are prioritizing this, patients aren’t exactly seeing these actions – only 35 percent of patients say they have noticed their providers becoming more engaged with them.
Communication’s Critical Role
Changing a behavior is easier said than done, but it’s becoming very clear that patients value communication with their providers. Fifty percent of patients ranked greater communication with their healthcare provider as being just as influential as a life event in terms of encouraging more active involvement with their care. These findings are encouraging, as providers can start looking toward improving two-way communication with their patients to enhance their engagement strategies.
Leverage IT to Improve Interactions
What can providers do to improve two-way communication with patients? Our research shows that both groups realize the value of technology as a path forward: Seventy-four percent percent of patients believe having greater online access to their personal healthcare information would help them take a more active role in their healthcare. This is a sentiment providers share, as 60 percent say that providing patients with greater online access to their personal information would improve quality of care.
Break Down Barriers With Online Access
Patients and providers are also on the same page when it comes to the most valuable methods for encouraging patient engagement: Web-based access to general healthcare information and online patient portals. Providers, however, see significantly greater value in mobile applications than patients, and patients see significantly greater value in online chat capabilities than providers. These technologies will be important moving forward, as they help to promote two-way feedback and encourage active participation outside the walls of the clinic or hospital.
Providers Prepare for Action
Sixty-seven percent of providers are working on a way to make personal healthcare records easier to access. Additionally, 28 percent of providers say they either provide or plan to provide patients the ability to merge information stored on their mobile devices or wearable technologies with the provider’s online patient portal.
The Future of Patient Engagement
Patients and providers both welcome increased engagement, which is easier than ever before in today’s increasingly digital world. However, encouraging engagement requires creating the perfect balance of incentives and tools, which continues to remain a challenge for providers – although not one that is impossible to overcome.
To promote a more effective patient engagement strategy, providers should turn to technology to improve communication between the caregiver and patient, and deliver relevant and timely information, in turn enabling informed decisions and better patient outcomes. In addition, leveraging technology to simplify access to health information and ensure the security of protected health information is an important step. Working with a trusted IT partner can help healthcare providers to power patient care through technology and alleviate strain on the IT department, helping to return the focus to what’s most important – providing the highest quality patient care.
Jonathan Karl is a director at CDW Healthcare in Vernon Hills, IL.