Home  |   Subscribe  |   Resources  |   Reprints  |   Writers' Guidelines

Web Exclusive

Hospital Engagement Index Gauges Patient Involvement
By Heather Hogstrom

As hospitals look to decrease costs and improve health outcomes, some are turning to patient engagement, which encourages patients to take ownership of their health care and become more active participants in managing their care. A study published in the February issue of Health Affairs found that the least active patients had 21% higher costs than the most active patients.

To evaluate the effectiveness of health systems’ patient engagement programs, Axial Exchange has created a patient engagement index to score hospitals’ success. The goal is to show which hospitals are working with patients to improve their care, according to Joanne Rohde, CEO of Axial Exchange.

As a starting point, the patient engagement index examined 74 hospital systems in Florida. While hospitals often are compared nationally, patients need regional data rather than countrywide rankings to make informed care decisions.

Axial Exchange chose criteria that have been found to lower costs or improve outcomes. The patient engagement index measures the following:

Personal health management: This determines whether the hospital provides patients with electronic tools and resources such as patient portals, mobile apps, health records, and health information for disease management. It is important for patients to understand their care in order to engage in it. This category comprises one-half the score since it’s the most tangible way to measure engagement, Rohde explains.

Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida, the state’s top-ranked hospital, provides HealthBridge, an online patient portal designed to be the community’s one source for all of their health needs, according to Natalie Sellers, MS, APR, the medical center’s chief communications officer and executive director of service and people excellence. This password-protected portal contains personalized health information, including education, breaking news, personal messages from physicians, and health tracking tools, and is accessible via smartphone, tablet, computer, or mail.

Patient satisfaction: This category’s score is determined by a hospital’s performance in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Survey, which measures patients’ satisfaction and perspectives on hospital care. The level of satisfaction can indicate the quality of care the patients receive. “Patient satisfaction correlates with what happens in the hospital,” Rohde says.

Social media engagement: This examines how hospitals engage patients via social networking, such as whether they have a social media presence, if they have a significant number of active followers, and how positive the audience’s attitude is about the hospital. The hospitals’ ratings on social media and consumer rating sites contribute to this score. Facebook likes or online ratings correlate with patient satisfaction and quality of care. Parrish Medical Center engages patients through consumer generated media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Hospitals should address all three of these categories, according to Rohde. The ranking highlights which patient engagement efforts are successful and which areas need improvement, and indicates which hospitals are likely to support patients in their care.

Parrish Medical Center engages its patients with relevant health information and self-management tools through multiple channels, according to Sellers. “Through our Web-based Emmi patient education solution, we empower patients to take action around their particular health care event or condition in language they understand at a time when they are ready to learn and through the devices they already own,” she says.

Additionally, through patient relationship management technology, patients can tell the center what health information they want and don’t want, when they want to receive it, and in what format, such as standard mail or e-mail.

“The concept of engaging patients and their families to achieve their best health is not new to health care,” Sellers says. “However, what is new are the ever-advancing technologies that break through access barriers to reliable information and tools that serve to engage and empower people to manage their health from anywhere and at any time.”

As the patient engagement index starts to take off, some institutions are beginning to check the website. Meanwhile, rankings for other states are in the works. Axial recently put the finishing touches on a patient engagement index for Texas and California hospitals. Hospitals can use these data to reevaluate their patient engagement strategies and emphasize the programs that are most effective.

— Heather Hogstrom is an editorial assistant at For The Record.