Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Do Patient Portals, EHR Implementation Boost Patient Engagement?

By Vera Gruessner

- Within the world of healthcare, patient engagement has evolved into a major goal across the industry. Patients and their caretakers need to be mindful of their overall health and wellness in order to put a dent in mortality rates and adverse health outcomes. How does EHR implementation and health IT come into the mix in better engaging patients with their overall health?

Patient Engagement

A key tool that many providers have incorporated in their practice is the patient portal, which is part of the overall platform that’s adopted during EHR implementation. A portal offers patients an application for securely messaging their physician and ordering medication. In general, patient portals can be leveraged to assist with medication management and scheduling appointments for preventive care. These methods could potentially lead to better outcomes and healthier patients.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) explained in a May 8 article that more healthcare institutions are focused on health IT and EHR implementation in order to help families and patients maintain a healthy lifestyle and adhere to medication management and other techniques for managing any chronic illnesses.

There are a variety of healthcare settings and many patients take months or even years to recover from injuries or other serious conditions. Do long-term care patients also need health IT tools to remain better engaged with their recovery and wellness goals?

Similar to other healthcare consumers, patients with a long road ahead of them often struggle to remain focused on their health. Whether patients are managing chronic illnesses, recovering from cancer treatments, or overcoming other medical conditions, the money and time necessary to remain dedicated to improving their health may be prohibitory.

Healthcare professionals from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital asked parents which technologies and tools help them better manage their child’s overall care. The patient portal was cited as a significant tool that assists parents with remaining engaged in their children’s care process.

In particular, the ability to track doctor appointments and request scheduling changes in the portal helped parents stay on track with their children’s care. The caretakers also gave several suggestions for improving the portal and providing tools that can enhance patient engagement. One suggestion asked for mobile device applications that will share patient activities and events information.

Additionally, it may benefit patients and their families to be alerted to schedule challenges, receive prompts at out-patient visits, and track test results as well as review medical terms. All of these capabilities can be achieved with optimal technologies and the implementation of upgraded patient portals.

While these suggestions are important to consider, they also show that patient portals may not be living up to their prior expectations. Results from a HIMSS Analytics survey shows that healthcare organizations may need to move beyond patient portals to get higher levels of patient engagement.

“Even if organizations have a vision for real patient engagement, many are consumed with checking the boxes for meaningful use,” Joe DeSantis, Vice President of HealthShare Platforms, InterSystems, said in a public statement. “Unfortunately, a patient portal based on a single EHR is not enough to move patient engagement forward. Engagement needs to span the entire care continuum. The short-term focus on meaningful use has often been at the expense of long-term strategic goals.”

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