Healthcare IT: How IT is Helping to Improve Patient Engagement

In healthcare today, there is a lot of discussion on how to improve patient engagement.  The goal is for patients and their caregivers to be better understand the implications of their diagnoses and the medical advice they’ve been given in order to drive improved compliance and outcomes.

This clearly isn’t just a technology challenge.  Many physicians are highly trained in diagnosing and treating illness, but less adept at explaining the conditions to patients in ways they will understand and respond to.  The Affordable Care Act is increasing access to healthcare for millions of Americans who have previously not been able to receive regular care.  This population likely has higher rates of illness and lower understanding of how to navigate our complex healthcare system.

To lower costs and improve outcomes, we must find ways to simplify healthcare delivery and encourage patients to take more responsibility for their treatment.  Health systems and providers should look for electronic health record (EHR) systems that easily integrate with patient portals or have interactive portals included in an end-to-end solution.

Patient engagement involves a wide variety of compliance categories.

There are several ways in which patient portals can drive improved patient understanding, engagement and compliance which will ultimately result in better health outcomes. Some specific ways patient portals can help include:

  1. Patient and Caregiver Education: There is a lot of medical information on the internet, but hoping patients will accurately research their condition is unrealistic. Doctor’s can use their patient portals as a way to distribute additional educational material about patient conditions and potential treatments so they can better understand their options. Patients can choose to share this information with family and other caregivers so that all have a common understanding of the patient situation.
  2. Open medical records and test results. Posting all of a patient’s medical records and test results on a secure portal helps them keep up to date on their health status and take a more active role in monitoring.  Ability to also access physicians notes post appointment is a useful way for patients to share information with family and make sure they understood the doctor’s advice correctly.
  3. Online scheduling. Compliance with needed follow up appointments is a common issue.  Patient portals can allow for online scheduling and automated reminder delivery that can make it easier for patients to get in for appointments and dramatically improve compliance.
  4. Secure email communications. Keeping in touch with a physician via email is sometimes much more efficient than trying to catch them on the phone.  Some patients don’t have ready access to phones during the work day which can result in endless attempts to reach a doctor for a live call.
  5. Online patient logs. Creating online logs for patients to self-report various medical symptoms such as blood sugar or blood pressure enables doctors to monitor and advise from a distance and encourages patients to stay actively involved in their treatments.

How to Use this Information

As a nation, we face a major challenge to provide better healthcare to a wider percentage of the population while maintaining or reducing delivery costs.  Leveraging the increasing technological expertise of the patient population, studies have shown that patients who use online portals to interact with their providers typically take a more active role in managing their health.  Edge Solutions has helped many healthcare IT leaders develop strategies to unify disparate IT systems and deploy integrated EHR solutions with sophisticated patient portal functionality.  Contact us today at 888-861-8884, or online.

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