Uncertainty clouds promise of patient engagement tech

Man using a smartphone
Biometric devices, mHealth apps and texting were identified by healthcare providers as the most effective patient engagement tools, according to a survey.

Healthcare providers see patient engagement tools as a means of better understanding each patient’s overall health and offering new pathways for predictive analytics, but many are still hesitant to steer patients toward certain technology.

More than two-thirds of respondents said technology can help support healthy behaviors among patients, according to a survey released by NEJM Catalyst. More than half said technology generates additional data for analytics.

But 67% of respondents also said they don’t know what tools to recommend to patients, and 42% said it’s still unclear how tools actually impact care.

RELATED: High-tech, high-touch ways to engage patients, members

“We need to understand what the optimal amount of data is versus continuously dumping data from engagement tools into the system,” Carol Peden, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Health System Innovation told NEJM Catalyst.

Biometric devices, mHealth apps and texting were identified as the most effective patient engagement tools. Eighty-one percent of respondents said these tools were best used to manage chronic diseases. For example, a new online tool recently released by Anthem aims to help providers and patients better understand gaps in asthma care.

A previous survey from NEJM Catalyst indicated that 69% of healthcare providers are using patient engagement tools, with the vast majority utilizing patient portals. Recently, providers and payers have been blending low-tech approaches with mobile devices to engage patients, following a call from one industry leader to “double-down” on patient engagement.