Current patient engagement efforts may not be 'fully baked'

Healthcare organizations are working on increasing patient engagement, but are concerned whether their efforts will be effective in improving clinical outcomes and reducing costs, according to a new study by HIMSS Analytics.

The study, sponsored by InterSystems, conducted an online quantitative survey of executives at 114 facilities and a qualitative focus group of nine of them. Nearly nine in 10 have an engagement strategy in place. Seventy-seven percent said they were driven by the goal to improve the health of the community and to build a loyal brand; 60 percent also cited their desire to meet Meaningful Use requirements.

However, their strategies to meet these goals may not work, and in some instances are "not fully baked," according to the study. For instance, almost three-fourths (71 percent) of the organizations were using patient portals to engage patients but current portals provide only the most basic engagement and are designed merely to meet Meaningful Use.

"The short-term focus on Meaningful Use has often forced providers to take a sub-optimal path to the long-term goal," the study's executive summary says.

The survey also finds that the organizations' patient engagement initiatives often lack definitive leadership and that the "leaders" were often committees or chief marketing officers who did not have the authority to make financial decisions that would move initiatives further.

Respondents reported that better portals would be interactive and provide e-visits, e-consultations, interoperability across multiple providers, tele-visits, health evaluations and coaching.

"To fully engage patients, leaders are looking for next-generation portals to offer the functionality that will enable patients to become partners in their own care," the study's authors say. "Game-changing patient engagement will give patients timely, comprehensive information enabling them to partner with their care providers--and to truly manage their health."

Other studies have expressed concern that patient portals may not improve outcomes and that lack of patient familiarity with them could hamper efforts to engage patients that way.

To learn more:
- read the announcement

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