Cedars-Sinai's Rick Riggs: Patient engagement in population health not one-size-fits-all [Q&A]

For Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Chief Medical Information Officer Rick Riggs, one of the biggest challenges in population health is the spillover effect of managing multiple populations simultaneously. To that end, his health system is in the process of building registries that enable providers to visualize their work.

"In preparation for that, we built a care management module out last summer to try to help with a place for items to land that needed to be taken care of," Riggs told FierceHealthIT at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference in Las Vegas. "We're step-wise, walking through the registries, the quality pieces that we have to hit for Medicare Advantage-type programs, and then the care practice."

However, he added that registries and modules are hardly enough to ensure the delivery of quality care. Riggs also discussed Cedars-Sinai's efforts to test multiple other tools to achieve those goals, as well as the importance of efficient workflow and patient engagement.

FierceHealthIT: What patient-facing tools are you using to aid in population health management?

Riggs: We're experimenting with things like asynchronous e-visits. Those are probably more for our younger, healthier populations--more for things like urinary tract infections, upper-respiratory infection-type simple visits. At the other end of the spectrum, we're looking at patient activation measures and questionnaires that can help us guide people to the appropriate level of triage within the system.

We're also trying including placing patients on care communication modules that are automatically set to their phone and can alert us if there are things that are going wrong.

I don't think that we've found one particular lane for population health management; instead, we're looking at the different patterns to see what works.

FHIT: How important is patient engagement to achieving your goals?

Riggs: That's another big part of population health. And that is not one-size-fits-all.

We need to have more understanding of what patients will engage and stick with and their daily routines--their workflow--otherwise a tool is just another annoyance. We shouldn't' be responding to a patient when they're arriving at our door. We want to make sure they're engaged and staying with us.

FHIT: Is mobile a big part of your population health strategy?

Riggs: With our in-hospital patients, providing a patient portal for their use in the hospital with an iPad has been very successful across all age groups throughout the hospital. There's a lot more feeling of control with that type of device. We need to get that same feeling now outside of the hospital.

We're also enabling two-way texting for appointment reminders/confirmations, and are looking into direct scheduling via mobile devices. That's a great access option and breaks down barriers for what are perceived limitations in care. Again, it helps to give folks more control.

Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.