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The Importance of Patient Engagement in a Successful HIE
By John Tempesco

Patient safety. Improved outcomes. Reduced costs.

These are the mantras of the modern healthcare environment. But what are the drivers of success in this environment?

With the growing awareness of and interest in health information exchange (HIE) as one of the most comprehensive and important channels for moving critical patient information to the point of care at the moment of need, the role of the patient is increasingly recognized as a critical success factor. Without a patient-centric approach that includes engaging individuals in the healthcare process, HIEs may fall short of their goal of facilitating connectivity among patients, physicians, clinics, and hospitals whether they are an integrated delivery network (IDN), a community, or a state.

What is patient engagement as it relates to HIE? As the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and meaningful use continue to gain momentum, EHRs are inevitably destined to become ubiquitous in physician practices, clinics, hospitals, and IDNs. And while the creation of a longitudinal patient record is key to the core implementation of an HIE, the burden of meaningful EHR use cannot be placed solely on a physician as far as accountability and continuity of care. Differences in a patient’s ability and willingness to participate in and manage his or her own medical care will translate into a magnification of existing flaws in the quality of care. This magnification will also affect the aimed-for reduction of cost of care. Scattered and only periodic patient engagement will hamper the effectiveness of the EHR and the HIE as patients’ access, review, and participation in their own medical records will be critical in achieving higher-quality outcomes at a reduced cost.

This engagement is particularly crucial in the rollout and success of an HIE. By definition, an HIE is broad in scope, often covering numerous territories, counties, regions, and even states. Its goals are to replicate and go beyond the system connectedness often found in a large physician practice by connecting unrelated physician practices, hospitals, IDNs, and clinics in a significant geographic region, such as a large metropolitan area like Kansas City (in both Kansas and Missouri) or a large rural area like Montana. The means the scope of its mission, requiring comprehensive and complex technology, cannot fully succeed without patients buying into the idea of improving and managing their own healthcare. As consolidated clinical information becomes available through HIEs, patients will need to be educated in the use of that information to effectively take responsibility and accountability for their own health.

As healthcare continues to be increasingly patient driven, patients, as the ultimate consumers of their own healthcare, will be called on to ensure exceptional healthcare for themselves and their families. This will be particularly true in the case of HIEs. As physician practices, hospitals, and clinics in far-flung geographic areas continue to be tied together by healthcare technology, the coalescing glue for ultimate success will be an attentive and alert patient working together with his or her physician, hospital, and other healthcare entity to improve health and ensure that vital clinical information is available at the point of care at the moment of need. This is an essential step in the transformation of the healthcare delivery system into a system for the delivery of health.

— John Tempesco is chief marketing officer for Informatics Corporation of America.