Interactive Patient Engagement Benefits Physicians And Patients
By Katie Wike, contributing writer
Patient engagement is key to reducing readmissions and providing patients the best experience possible
Patient engagement not just a requirement for Meaningful Use (MU), it provides tangible benefits for providers and patients as well. For example, patients who are engaged in their health are more likely to monitor chronic diseases or take medications and less likely to end up back in the hospital. Reducing readmissions is good for providers, since new penalties can total more than a quarter million dollars per occurrence.
At the upcoming Achieving Patient Experience Excellence Summit, JoAnn Trybulski, chief nursing officer, University of Miami Health System, will discuss interactive patient engagement through informative consultations and educational practices. The Summit is put on by International Quality & Productivity Center (IQPC) and aims to drive “real results through extraordinary case studies, strategies, and tactics to develop and implement a successful high impact patient-centered care program.”
In addition to the methods that will be discussed at the Summit, there are other ways providers can interact with their patients, and they are more diverse now than ever because more and more patients have access to the internet. Some of the most valuable tools are smartphone apps, since reminders can be easily sent directly to patients, and they can easily contact providers with questions and concerns. One app helps patients stay on track with prescription medications and hopes to keep patients out of the ER through medication adherence and communication with a pharmacist.
Patient education is also a part of Trybulski presentation, and a survey from Xerox reveals patients are confused by electronic health records (EHRs) and how to use them. Two out of three patients surveyed feel their doctors have not involved them in the transition to digital records. Charles Fred, president of health care provider solutions, Xerox, summed up the situation by saying, “Patients will soon have more access to their personal health information than ever before, but they need to be educated by providers on how this will empower them to take charge of their own care.” If providers expect patients to become involved in their health, they also need to be involved in the transitions and education of how to best use the new technology being made available.
Interacting with patients benefits both parties in such ways that some say the future includes patient generated data as a solution to the problems EHRs present. Convincing patients to enter and update their personal health data would prevent mistakes in the ED and ensure accuracy about birthdates, allergies, and medications that may be missed by a busy ED staff. If the future of patient engagement is to play out the way providers prefer, providers have to take the time now to interact with and educate patients - not just to meet MU, but to truly better the healthcare system.
If a patient does not have a solid understanding, they cannot be engaged. Patient engagement must begin with education. When attempting to educate a patient, many factors will come into play. The level of health literacy, the learning style of the patient, the ability of the physician to explain and the quality of patient handout materials are all factors in how thorough of an understanding the patient will have when they leave.
Health literacy is an issue that spans across all demographics and intelligence levels. It is the ability to read and understand information about your health and make decisions about it. Health literacy is critical in engaging patients and motivating them to practice self-management of chronic diseases, medication adherence and care transition. Because of time constraints, it is common for physicians to provide printed handouts to patients in lieu of offering an extensive explanation. This leaves a substantial amount of patients without a conclusive understanding of their responsibility to manage their health.
People have different learning styles. Some individuals learn best when being spoken to, others will need to be shown and some just have to do it themselves. Educating patients with their preferred learning style helps ensure their engagement and understanding of the material. A physician who struggles with communicating information in terms the patient can understand can even turn off patients with auditory learning styles. Providing materials for the patient to take home is crucial in ensuring they have a comprehensive understanding of their responsibilities.
Many patients will nod in assurance they understand, but leave without any knowledge of even a simple required task such as when to take their medication. Many patients are too anxious and confused to ask valuable questions at the physician’s office. This often leads to a preventable readmission into the hospital. Providing materials for the patient to view at home can lead to a dramatic reduction in readmission rates, but they must be in an engaging format.
Ideally, physicians should offer a variety of materials that address multiple learning styles, various levels of health literacy and can evoke emotion. Printed health education materials will be ideal for many, but videos will help bridge educational and language barriers, especially with complex situations. Having a variety of tools that work to both engage and educate the patient, allows them to make better decisions regarding their health.
InCrowd Research today announced the results of research with 300 primary care physicians (PCPs) from across the United States. The findings suggest that despite the influence of electronic health records and Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements, almost 40% of the surveyed PCPs are not actively participating in patient engagement activities. Many of them indicated they were not familiar with the term ‘patient engagement’.
“Our goal with this initial research was to understand the current state of patient engagement within a physician specialty that typically sees a high volume of patients, like primary care physicians. What we found in our research was surprising and reveals significant opportunity for companies who want to support physicians along the pathway to patient engagement,” says Kathleen Poulos, Co-Founder and CMO at InCrowd.
InCrowd research also indicated that, of the physicians who said they were participating in patient engagement activates, many use on-line tools to help reinforce the importance of lifestyle changes, treatment decisions and medication adherence. “While the research results were eye opening, we believe that the pharmaceutical industry, specifically, has a huge opportunity to leverage real time data and work with the physician community to help close the engagement gap,” says Ms. Poulos. Though historically the physician has shouldered the majority of the burden in terms of getting patients ‘well’, it truly needs to be a healthcare community effort that includes a fully engaged patient.
When it comes to obesity, many physicians believe there's only so much intervention can do for patients. But new research shows that increasing patient engagement through technology — in other words, involving patients in their own weight-loss efforts between visits by giving them tools such as text-based exercise reminders — just may help physicians help those patients in need of weight-management assistance.
More than 35 percent of those who don’t follow exact treatment plans said they would be more likely to follow directions if they received reminders from their doctors via e-mail, voicemail, or text, according to the report The Obesity Epidemic: Unhealthy Habits Result in a Growing Problem for Americans. The report, conducted by TeleVox, a provider of patient-engagement technology tools, and Kelton Research, is based on a survey of more than 1,130 Americans ages 18 and older and 463 healthcare providers.
"You can load somebody up with as much information as you want, but until they're actually committed to making that change, they're not going to do it," Allison Hart, director of marketing communications at TeleVox, told Physicians Practice. "Behavior change is incredibly hard."
Typically, what happens is overweight patients go to the doctor and doctor says, "'you need to lose weight' and 'come back in six months or whatever,' but there's no support given on a daily basis," said Hart. "That's where engagement communications plays a part … delivering that encouragement, engagement, and support between the visit."
Results of the survey support this premise:
- 30 percent of U.S. consumers asserted that receiving text messages, voicemails, or e-mails that provide patient care between visits would increase feelings of trust in their provider;
- Of the 66 percent of patients who have received a voicemail, text messages, or e-mail from a healthcare provider, 51 percent reported feeling more valued as a patient;
- 61 percent of Americans said that they would be interested in and/or happy to receive communications from their doctor with tips on how to manage their weight; and
- 24 percent of Americans said that communications from their doctor between office visits, such as e-mail, text messages, or phone calls, would help them better manage their overall health.
And while about half of physicians surveyed said they already use technology to engage with patients, the reality is that such engagement is limited. In fact, fewer physicians actually do things such as e-mail healthy recipes, or send text messages to patients reminding them to exercise, said Hart.
"Our research shows about 46 percent of providers said they use e-mail, voice mail, text messaging for patient care between visits," said Hart. "I think that what you'll find is that most of them are using [these means of communication] for appointment reminders, lab test results, things like that. We've really just started talking about this idea of [using] technology beyond the basics."
Physicians should also ask to see a copy of their latest audit report, Hart suggests.
"There's always going to be some level of concern with patient privacy and compliance," said Hart. "The most important thing to do is to choose a vendor that's trustworthy in this area."
The holiday season can be a hard time of year for weight management patients. From turkey temptations to holiday cookies, food challenges lurk around every corner. This is the time where strong connections with their care team and patient engagement are needed for compliance with care plans.
ObesityWeek, the national conference for practitioners and researchers, took place in Atlanta earlier this month. A study was released that showed bariatric surgery’s beneficial effects for type 2 diabetes were significantly greater than other medical and lifestyle interventions. New guidelines also urged primary care providers to diagnose and prescribe treatment for obese patients more consistently.
Hospitals have made numerous upgrades to support and improve the experience of their obese patients, including larger beds, wheelchairs, and imaging machines along with new staff protocols. However, treating patients for obesity requires a long-term patient engagement effort that goes beyond the hospital walls.
1. Set up the office to boost patient participation.
To do this, it’s imperative that all staff members are on board. It will be the responsibility of the front office staff to positively promote patient engagement. They should have comprehensive training on the patient portal and be well versed in instructing patients on how to log on. Arm them with instructional hand-outs for patients to take home and post signs posted throughout the waiting room to promote the portal. Additionally, if you can offer patients an opportunity to log in to the portal directly from the waiting room, potentially with a secured tablet or kiosk, you will be setting yourself up for success and will likely far surpass the 5% VDT threshold.
2. Embrace automation wherever possible
It’s not uncommon for patients to ask for their doctors to email them directly. They want to work with physicians who can give them their health information when they want it, which is usually as soon as humanly possible. Patients who have experienced receiving an email notification that their lab or imaging results are in before they even get home from their doctor’s appointment are familiar with the excitement of having a doctor who has embraced the digital world. This level of convenience is becoming second nature for patients and they are using these experiences as benchmarks when they choose a provider. The bottom line is to take digital communication with patients seriously — get on board or miss the boat.
3. Incorporate the portal into follow-up visits
During follow-up visits, providers have an opportunity to incorporate the portal into the visit, practically ensuring the portal’s success. Consider obtaining the patient’s lab results directly from the portal and use it as an opportunity to not only educate the patient on his or her condition, but also to showcase how easily the portal can be accessed.
4. Use education, not scare tactics
Though doctors may have been telling patients to live healthier lifestyles for years, education is much more effective than scare tactics. Patients who are well-informed of their medical conditions, risk, and optimal treatments are more likely to comply with provider directions. When they understand the consequences of their life choices, they end up being higher-compliers and learn to be accountable for their health decisions.
5. Hire a dedicated wellness administrator
If all else fails, consider utilizing additional support staff to increase compliance and help build a robust, profitable practice. Because medical nutrition is often the first medical protocol for many age-related diseases, a licensed clinical nutritionist (costing $17 – 20 per hour) can be put to work to give personalized attention to patients and billed as a health practitioner for weight loss and nutritional counseling. This staff member can be responsible for following up with patients after the doctor has made her recommendations, signing patients up to the patient portal and giving a short tutorial at checkout, or making “how are you feeling today?” calls to patients to check in with them or give them a quick overview of the portal.
Any or all of these actions can improve patient satisfaction, improve marketability, and increase referrals into the practice. Engaging with patients on a personal level, while embracing technology, will certainly help you meet, or even exceed, the 5 percent VDT threshold required for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use. Good luck! Report back and let us know which approach works best for your practice.
Hospitals have historically been reluctant to engage in health care social media initiatives. Potential patient privacy risks, in some cases, turn organizations off from sharing information with their patients over social networks. But some IT professionals think hospitals need to overcome these concerns in 2013 to take advantage of social media benefits and opportunities.
Ed Bennett, director of Web and communications technology at the University of Maryland Medical System, said many hospitals today still block doctors and nurses from sites like Facebook and Twitter while on the hospital's network. They do this to prevent privacy breaches, but Bennett feels these concerns are overblown. Providers should improve access next year as they start to realize this.
"I think that's going to be the big area that needs the most attention over the next year," Bennett said. "The trends in other industries show that organizations are unblocking social media. My perception is that health care blocks [social media] more than [other industries]."
Kim Kardashian may have 17 million followers, but there are other folks that are a little bit more influential for the right reasons.
Charles Boicey, informatics solutions architect at the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center
He added that doctors and hospitals can use social media to protect their reputations on online review sites, get credible information out to patients and get involved in patient conversations. While these are things organizations have traditionally been reluctant to get involved in, it is possible to do them in a way that "protects your organization and protects privacy," Bennett said.
Patients continue to turn to the Internet for health information in increasing numbers. A 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, found that 88% of people who care for loved ones and have access to the Internet look for answers to their questions online. A study from Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that 24% of patients post information about their health experiences to social networking sites. Up to 60% of respondents said they would trust online information posted by physicians.
It's up to hospitals and physicians to meet this demand for social information sharing, said Charles Boicey, informatics solutions architect at the University of California Irvine Medical Center, and co-creator of MappyHealth, an online application that tracks posts to social media sites to predict and follow potential disease outbreaks.
Boicey said social networks offer an opportunity for providers to educate and engage with patients. There is a lot of health information on the Internet, but it isn't always vetted by qualified medical professionals. The quality of these sites increases when doctors become more active online. This can help patients learn more about their own health.
"As more and more credible people use social media, the data is becoming more credible," Boicey said. "Kim Kardashian may have 17 million followers, but there are other folks that are a little bit more influential for the right reasons."
Social media shouldn't be the only thing hospitals try in order to improve patient engagementin their own care, Boicey added. But when used alongside patient portals and follow-up contacts it can be an effective way to activate individuals and get them more interested in their health.
Just because there are potential benefits to engaging patients via social media platforms doesn't mean providers should delve headlong into the world of Facebook and Twitter. Both Boicey and Bennett said policies governing how doctors interact with patients online should be clearly spelled out to mitigate HIPAA violation risks, among other reasons. Every health care organization that starts social media initiatives should give thought to this policy before encouraging large-scale involvement.
Bennett said he believes the number of patients using social media for health purposes will continue to increase in 2013. This provides organizations with an opportunity to reach new patients and engage existing ones. What is less clear, Bennett said, is whether hospitals and doctors will take advantage of this opportunity.
It’s almost a cliché that providers need to reach patients where they want to connect, yet there is an existing option being underused.
No, it’s not mHealth applications – but it has demonstrated some “astounding” results.
“We tend to think about apps when we think about mobile, and apps are great,” said Travis Good, MD, CEO of catalyze.io, during the AHIMA Convention last Tuesday morning in Atlanta. “But there are simpler solutions we might think about when engaging patients.”
SMS, texting and e-mail are chief among those.
Patient “response and bill pay rates are completely and totally astounding. I mean I’m floored by it,” Good said. “Messaging is something we tend not to think about.”
Because of HIPAA restrictions, Good said, many doctors are also discouraged by SMS, but “HIPAA does allow patients to opt-in to receive SMS messages,” he added.
Although there are not many healthcare-centric SMS services right now, that’s changing. And based on preliminary results and the fact that so many patients have SMS-capable phones, that could change quickly.
Sharing your scoops to your social media accounts is a must to distribute your curated content. Not only will it drive traffic and leads through your content, but it will help show your expertise with your followers.
How to integrate my topics' content to my website?
Integrating your curated content to your website or blog will allow you to increase your website visitors’ engagement, boost SEO and acquire new visitors. By redirecting your social media traffic to your website, Scoop.it will also help you generate more qualified traffic and leads from your curation work.
Distributing your curated content through a newsletter is a great way to nurture and engage your email subscribers will developing your traffic and visibility.
Creating engaging newsletters with your curated content is really easy.