For the Laissez-faire Patient, there Will Be Some Push Back When Patient Engagement is Pushed

With the patient engagement quandary hanging its head over the next phase of meaningful use, healthcare leaders of all kinds continue to wrestle with how to meet mandates that are beyond their control.

Previously, the assignment was simple: do this, get that. But here, in stage 2, there’s a little outlier – required patient engagement – that has some physicians worried about how they are going to handle their second attestation.

Even though there are rumblings that CMS may look the other way when dealing with patient engagement, or decides not to enforce it, at least in the beginning, or chooses not to audit this measure, it’s still a mandate and it’s being taken seriously for all providers seeking the second set of financial incentives.

Some practices are taking measures that they haven’t had to in the past or at least with as much passion as they are now. They are marketing and advertising directly to patients, even if the campaign extends only to the interior of their own practices.

Such is the case for Dr. Stephen Bush, of Fox Valley Women and Children’s Health Partners in St. Charles, Illinois.

The first step in the process, Dr. Bush said is the implementation of a patient portal, which is though to help get the practice’s patients engaged or, in the very least, getting them more involved in their care protocols.

“The problem is, patients have to sign up to use the portal,” Bush said. His worry, though, is when pushing patients to engage, that if patients are pushed too hard, patients push back and essentially disengage.

“We receive significant push back from patients who get upset when trying to engage too much,” Bush said. Examples include posting too many times on Facebook or posting too many tweets to Twitter. According to Bush, patients will stop liking the practice on Facebook and stop following on Twitter if they feel the practice too involved socially.

Bush said his practice is working to implement new marketing and educational strategies to prepare for the patient engagement mandate, just to be safe, even though there’s little that can be done to audit how often patients use the portal after they have signed up.

There also may be too much attention put on patient portal’s capabilities, he said.

“They are not education tools, and they’re not meant to provide better healthcare, and in no way does it educate the patient,” he said.

Despite the patient engagement portion of the Stage 2, Bush said meaningful use is needed and ultimately, will help patients become more informed and get them involved in their care, which may help reduce costs overall. “The management of healthcare for patients is important, and can make lives better and healthier,” he said.

“All physicians are concerned about their patients are being taken care of and informed. Meaningful use gets patients involved. Patients now deal with things when there is a problem occurs rather than managing a healthy lifestyle.”

Physicians are trying to engage patients, and always have. Eventually, a change will come to the landscape, but as long as patients remain laissez-faire, there will be some push back when they are pushed.