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HIMSS Conference News

HIMSS Helps Attendees Engage Patients

By Heather Hogstrom

Patient engagement is an important issue, but organizations must ask themselves if they’re looking at it as a way to simply meet meaningful use requirements or to improve the way they do business. Since patients won’t use the technology if it’s not valuable to them, organizations need to come to patients on their own terms and integrate into what they are already doing.

Several HIMSS sessions covered this concept, including “Engaging Patients Through a Compelling Web Experience,” presented by Joel Arker, director of strategic technology services at PinnacleHealth, and Stephen Roth, vice president and CIO of PinnacleHealth. They defined patient engagement as patients taking responsibility for their health and looking to the physician as a resource and support system to help them be as healthy as possible. They further described engaged patients as those who are educated, set goals for themselves, seek out assistance to meet those goals, and make treatment decisions based on the information they receive.

Arker described the capabilities of a patient portal that would enable these characteristics of an engaged patient, including integrating the portal into daily life, providing information in a personal context that doesn’t require a physician to explain it, and providing executable actions at the point choices are made. Another feature is providing price, quality, impact, and status transparency, such as through a procedure price estimator that calculates the out-of-pocket cost and helps patients look for the best price, or through procedure outcome rates that indicate how often a certain procedure leads to an improvement in health. Other tools include those that enable the involvement of personal support, such as allowing family members to track a patient’s status in the operating room or view a live video of their child in the neonatal ICU. Additionally, the portal can provide tools that enable goal setting, such as fitness, weight, nutrition, and blood sugar trackers.

These tools and features help provide portal functions that, according to Roth, should involve the patient’s family, enable informed decision making and goal setting, and be convenient. He outlined additional features, such as providing the wait time for the emergency department, offering discussion boards on a secure website that allow users to subscribe to channels on topics of interest, and providing appointment scheduling that allows users to select an available time slot and view current and past appointments.

While it doesn’t count toward meaningful use, PinnacleHealth will begin to introduce its portal to inpatients so they can get set up and become familiar with it. The portal also can include discharge information, which is the most confusing part of a hospital visit for a patient, and immediately schedule a follow-up appointment before the patient leaves.

Patient portals can provide tools to enable patient engagement in a meaningful way. Convenience is key, and health care organizations should look for ways to improve both the way they do business and the way patients engage in their care.

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