More Steps to Engage Patients for Good Practice and Meaningful Use

In my engagement with leaders in and around health IT, I’m fortunate to have access to some of the best thinking and leadership in the industry. Part of my responsibility of with this publication is to collate and collect some of what I consider to be the best thought leadership in health IT and publish it for anyone to read.

In my “travels,” I recently was introduced to Dr. Ed Fotsch, CEO of PDR Network, an organization that provides innovative products and services that benefit bio/pharmaceutical manufacturers, electronic health record (EHR) and ePrescribing vendors. Hopefully, I’ll be able to feature him in the near future in a HIT Thought Leadership Highlight.

However, I came across the following piece recently, “4 Steps to Engage Patients While Meeting Meaningful Use Requirements,” from my friends at Becker’s Hospital Review and I thought it pretty insightful.

As we know, engaging patients in their care is a major focus of coming meaningful use requirements, and though patient portals are suspected to play a major role in this, actually engaging patients is a real sticky wicket.

I an leary that patient portals on their own and in their current form are going to do much more for healthcare and patient engagement than they are doing now, but they do serve a valuable and needed purpose.

For example (and these might seem obvious), according Becker’s, “patient portals on a health system’s website can allow patient to easily schedule appointments, contact their provider and access other resources, which engages them in their care. These portals also help hospitals and physicians fulfill meaningful use stage 2 requirements of providing patients the ability to view their health information online and using electronic health records to identify patient-specific education resources.”

That aside, I appreciate what Fotsch brings to the conversation, in the following points (I quote him here via Becker’s) that hospital leaders should follow to implement patient portals to both engage patients and meet meaningful use requirements.

1. Understand the new requirements of meaningful use stage 2. “Under stage 2, eligible providers and hospitals have to enable patients to view their health information online and download and transmit it. EPs and hospitals also have to use EHRs to identify patient-specific education resources, with the added requirement for hospitals of providing those resources to the patient when appropriate. In addition, EPs have to identify patients who should receive reminders for preventive and follow-up care and communicate relevant health information to patients electronically.

“A patient portal that has secure messaging can help hospitals and EPs achieve these objectives, which also engage patients. For example, providing education to patients involves them in their care and promotes shared decision-making.”

2. Educate providers on the new meaningful use stage 2 requirements. “Hospitals should educate all providers on the new requirements, including affiliated and owned physician practices. This education ensures everyone connected with the hospital is aware of the requirements, which supports coordinated care.”

3. Implement EHR systems and features that offer proactive patient portal services. “Up until now, the essential features of a patient portal were largely administrative (a provider website with registration and secure messaging for appointment reminders, lab results, billing questions, etc.). Now patient portals must also offer patients access to their basic record as well as proactive patient education and clinical reminders.”

4. Look for services that can fulfill meaningful use stage 2 requirements without adding to cost or workload. “Successful implementation of patient portals requires smooth integration into providers’ current workflow. Automating patient portal features, such as having e-prescribing automatically trigger drug education for patients. Hospital leaders should discuss patient portal features with their EHR vendors.

“Ask them what they are planning to fulfill meaningful use stage 2 patient education and reminder requirements without adding to cost or workload. How are they integrating this new requirement into existing workflow?”

I still strongly believe that much needs to be done for patient engagement and that even with meaningful use, we’re still a long way off, but as the time line approached for Stage 2, so does the opportunity to begin testing some theories long discussed. If nothing else, this is a good addition to the patient engagement and meaningful use conversation, which we all know there’s no shortage of.

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