Electronic Health Records

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Patient Portals and Tracking Devices Driving Engagement

By Vera Gruessner

- As EHR systems, patient portals, telemedicine, electronic prescribing, and other technologies continue affecting the healthcare industry, more stakeholders are considering how these tools are impacting patient engagement. For instance, a Harris Poll survey released by ambulatory healthcare IT vendor eClinicalWorks polled 2,000 adults across the country and found that 84 percent of respondents have access to a patient portal through their physician’s practice.

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Another interesting finding from the poll is that adults older than 55 years of age are actually more likely to access their medical records through these tools than adults between 18 to 54 years of age.

The use of patient portals is increasing, as 60 percent of respondents claimed to prefer scheduling doctor appointments via the portal or other secure website. The survey also examined how healthcare providers regarded patient portals.

The biggest benefit of the patient portal, according to three out of four polled physicians, was enabling patients to view their own medical record and creating a platform for sharing data among doctors. Sending alerts and appointment reminders to patients was also cited as a major benefit of the portal. More than one in two (56 percent) physicians also support the ease of appointment scheduling through the patient portal.

Wearable devices and telehealth initiatives are also impacting patients around the nation. The survey shows that 37 percent of people who wear a fitness tracking device tend to wear it every day. Additionally, almost four out of five people who use wearable devices at least twice a month find it essential for their physicians to have this information.

Along with questions on wearable devices, the survey also examined patient views on telemedicine. The results show that 64 percent of adults would sometimes prefer a telehealth visit over an in-person visit for following up with a prior health concern. Additionally, two out of three doctors found that fitness trackers, health apps, and patient portals have all transformed the typical conversation between patients and physicians.

As previously reported, Nuance Communications has also conducted a survey across Germany, the US, and the United Kingdom on the patient perspective of new healthcare technologies.

“One of the things that came out [of the survey] was that patients like the fact that their physicians are using technologies,” Dr. Nick van Terheyden, Chief Medical Information Officer of Nuance Communications, told EHRIntelligence.com. “Obviously, it’s come with some challenges and specific problems. Our desire is to smooth that over and make the technology work better for the interaction.”

Some advice the CMIO offers is to rearrange the doctor’s office and to ensure physicians are more focused on the patient instead of note-taking. Whether using scribes or a laptop and facing the patient, physicians can incorporate the new technologies to engage the consumer. Dr. Nick van Terheyden also spoke about the benefits of tracking devices.

“We’re seeing this big move and explosion of these devices that are tracking information and I’ve heard pushback from my colleagues who say ‘I don’t want 1,500 blood pressure recordings from my patients’ and I would agree with that,” said van Terheyden. “What you are interested in is a high density representation of that in chart form that shows blood pressure is stable, or declining, or increasing. That’s highly valuable information.”

 

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