Empathy essential for patient engagement success

Though technology can go a long way to help engage patients in their own health care, a little empathy can be an essential ingredient, according to an article published at CIO.com.

Wearable tech and medical devices, patient portals, personal health records and mobile apps hold the potential to improve care, but to do so, patients and physicians must use them and organizations must integrate them into traditional efforts to engage patients, the article says.

Many of these new tools are not connected, and providing "bridges" through these sets of information can spark innovation and help organizations meet the needs of patients at the points where they most feel overwhelmed in the care process, according to the article.

"The transactional nature of the health system is all about the in-person visit," Amy Cueva, founder and chief experience officer at Portsmouth, N.H.-based user-experience design firm Mad*Pow, told CIO.com. "Where we see technology not being leveraged, or solutions not being designed, is to maintain an ongoing conversation or level of engagement with the patient."

Half of U.S. hospitals and 40 percent of physicians in ambulatory practices have implemented some type of patient portal technology, according to a recent report from Frost & Sullivan, though for most it has been a module associated with their electronic health record system. And patient response to that technology has been underwhelming, as the CIO.com article points out, which makes it that much more difficult for providers to justify the expense.

But with Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements for engagement, the Frost & Sullivan report predicts "significant disruption" in the market--221.1 percent growth to $898.4 million in 2017--as portal systems add robust functions such as health information exchange across diverse care settings, integration of clinical and financial data, dynamic scheduling, social networking and gaming.

Kaiser Permanente, which has more than 4.3 million members registered to its personal health record system, My Health Manager, reported earlier this month that patients have responded positively to being able to view their lab results online.

Giving patients access to their own health data can be more complicated than it sounds, according to research published at the Journal of the American Informatics Association, with legal, organizational and cultural issues arising beyond the technical challenges.

To learn more:
- read the article