Beacon programs share patient engagement IT lessons learned

Four women gave honest insight into the lessons they've learned in their individual Beacon Community programs--in central Pennsylvania, southeast Minnesota and Western New York--at the Government Health IT Conference & Exhibition this week in Washington, D.C.

Ellen Makar, senior policy advisor for the office of consumer eHealth at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, discussed the "three A's" approach to consumer engagement before the other speakers shared their stories.

"You can see there's a big theme coming--consumer and patient engagement," Makar said. "Access, action, attitude. Those things are moving together all the time in advancing the idea of shared decision making--with data."

The end game of Beacon projects is better technology and better information that will transform healthcare, and a big part of that is empowering individuals, Makar said.

"We're going to be saying 'wow, isn't it amazing people didn't have their healthcare data before?'" she said.

Nancy Maloney, senior business architect and clinical operations manager of the Western New York Beacon Community, said a preventative telemonitoring program for diabetes patients was extremely successful, while a medication adherence computer program, which disrupted and duplicated workflow, was not. She showed a video of a diabetes patient who lost weight and lowered his daily sugar levels while enrolled in the telemonitoring program.

"Knowing you're going to get that phone call if you're not doing well is a really great incentive," the patient said in the video. "Knowing that someone is out there and cares makes a great difference."

Teresa Younkin, who serves as community engagement lead for the Keystone Beacon Community Project, said her program's goals were to up flu shot adherence and educate patients about finding health information online. For their group, it was all about listening.

"Technology alone is not always the answer," Younkin said, after telling a story about struggling to get older patients online. "Allow partners to shape and align their use of technology with their organization goals."

Roughly 27,000 patients signed up for flu shot reminders, and 5,000 were educated on using the Internet to obtain trusted healthcare information in her program.

Doreen Salek, Director of Population Management Operations for Geisinger Health Plan in Danville, Pa., focused on getting heart failure/COPD patients at the Keystone Beacon Community Project in north central Pennsylvania using a health information exchange and online portal. What worked, she said, was utilizing a known or trusted measure of care team. Using iPads had its challenges, with Wi-Fi connectivity and signoffs. Her advice?

"Don't roll it out until you're ready and can show that it works."

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