Patient engagement: More than just a buzzword

Patient engagement has been more than just a buzzword around the health IT community in 2013 and early 2014--it's been a true trend, implemented by healthcare organizations and even on a national level.

Case in point: leading national pharmacies and retailers are joining the Blue Button initiative, as recently announced by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT. Walgreens, Kroger, CVS Caremark, Rite Aid, Safeway, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Pharmacy Health IT Collaborative and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations all have pledged to increase patient engagement through either the Blue Button + initiative for standardizing patient prescription information. This is surely a sign that patient engagement is growing in importance in healthcare.

In addition, the importance of patient engagement and technology use for better and more efficient health outcomes serves as the focus of the 2013 Workplace for Electronic Data report, released this past December.

To that end, at HIMSS14 in Orlando, Fla., the panels and education sessions discussing patient engagement are plentiful. On Monday, Feb. 24, check out "Patient Engagement—It's for Small Clinics, Too" at 11:30 a.m., which will focus on a model developed by the Louisiana Health IT Resource Center to assist small and rural clinics with patient engagement objectives.

In addition on Monday, "Engaging Patients Through a Compelling Web Experience" at 1 p.m., featuring Joel Arker, director of strategic technology services for Pinnacle Health System. Arker will speak on improving access to patient data using HIEs and patient portals, and how to make them appealing and easy-to-use for patients.

Geisinger Health System Director Chanin Wendling will talk about digital patient engagement on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 8:30 a.m. Wendling will review Geisinger projects that used digital tools such as patient portal, patient questionnaires, texting, iPads and mobile apps and identify lessons learned.

Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT officials Judy Murphy, Lygeia Ricciardi and Doug Fridsma will talk policy initiatives, standards development and resources available for patient engagement efforts on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 8:30 a.m., at the "New Initiatives to Engage Consumers and Patients Through Technology" session. Ricciardi, director of the Office of Consumer eHealth, at the Consumer Health IT summit last fall talked about the three A's ONC is touting for consumer data: access to information; making information actionable; and attitudes--changing the way patients think about their data.

"We've really decided to adopt and rally around this symbol of Blue Button for this movement," she said. "We're changing behaviors here. Blue Button is a symbol for what you can do."

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