More patient involvement needed in Meaningful Use push

Healthcare providers need to do a better job of engaging their patients in Meaningful Use initiatives and aligning their efforts to meet patients' needs in order to truly have success going into Stage 2 and beyond, according to a survey released by  PricewaterhouseCoopers during HIMSS11 last week. Specifically, the survey looks at how educating patients about IT efforts, and helping them in using tools such as personal health records, can help overcome serious gaps that currently exist between what providers and patients believe is realistic in terms of results.

"When you see that 50 percent [of patients] don't even understand what an electronic health record is, 30 percent don't understand the value of why it's important, that's alarming," Bruce Henderson, PwC's director and national leader of the EHR-HIE Practice, told FierceHealthIT. "As an industry, we clearly have been very focused internally in terms of workflow path and implementation with our IT organizations with our physicians with our nurses, but we've not brought other stakeholders--our patients, our community members--into this process."

One of the more telling figures from the report concerning patient and provider expectations showed there to be a significant gap between the two in terms of turnaround time for test results. Providers initially believed 60 days to be a reasonable turnaround time for getting results to patients, and later lowered that number to between 14 and 30 days. Patients, meanwhile, defined reasonable as 30 minutes.

Such a gap, Henderson said, is symbolic of just how out of touch the two sides are when it comes to one another's ideas about care. Ultimately, though, he believes the onus is on the health industry to adapt and comply as best it can.

"We need better planning around the implementation of these systems around a data architecture that enables the information to be more readily available," Henderson said. "I think the patient's expectations are very realistic."

Harry Greenspun, MD, executive director and chief medical officer with Dell--which recently conducted a similar survey of its own--agrees with Henderson's take. In a sit down at HIMSS, Greenspun explained to FierceHealthIT that patients need to learn about these technologies from their doctors in order to avoid any miscommunication. He compared explaining the benefits of EHRs to the situation encountered by the Transportation Security Administration this past holiday season, when consumers lashed out at the federal government for pat downs administered to passengers boarding airplanes.

"We haven't laid out the case for your average consumer about what's going to benefit them," Greenspun said. "Presumably, the TSA felt they were going to provide higher quality service and greater safety. Instead, they encountered a lot of resistance."

He added that, if presented in the right manner, patients should be "clamoring" for their physicians to adopt EHR technology.

"Average healthy people want to learn about this from their doctors ... not necessarily from their insurance companies or the government," he said. "It's important that we deliver this message across the board."

PwC outlined four steps that providers could follow to help with such efforts:

  • Making providers (doctors, nurse practitioners) the face of the PHR.
  • Defining expectations for active participation by patients.
  • Keeping family members in the loop.
  • Working side-by-side with patients through such processes.

To learn more:
- download the PwC survey
- here's Dell's survey (.pdf)