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    How to improve patient engagement through technology



    Looking ahead

    Experts say that engagement strategies must evolve as patients continue to embrace technology. 

    For example, the number of patients who collect information about their own health and want to share it with physicians is likely to grow. Sixty-four percent of patients already say they would submit real-time data to their provider to improve their health, the CDW study found.

    Stasia Kahn, MD, a primary care physician at Symphony Medical Group in Carol Stream, Illinois, says her EHR includes a list of fitness applications that she can prescribe for patients and easily print and/or include in her documentation via an order set. As patients use these applications, she records relevant data in the EHR (e.g., average number of steps or calories per day) during each office visit.

    Harborview’s EHR includes limited functionality for patient-generated data, and Jackson says she hopes the technology will eventually develop more user-friendly interfaces for collecting information directly from patients. 

    Devices that collect patient-generated data give physicians unparalleled access to each patient’s health status, says Peter Basch, MD, MACP, senior director of IT quality, safety, research, and national health IT policy at MedStar Health in Washington, D.C. When combined with algorithms that enhance a physician’s ability to spot trends and anomalies, this data could be a powerful tool to improve outcomes.

    As payment models continue to shift toward population health management, physicians will likely be paid for reviewing this data and helping patients act on it, Basch adds.

    Basch cites the example of a patient who has difficulty controlling his or her diabetes. In the future, a patient could send multiple blood sugar measurements directly to the physician’s EHR, where artificial intelligence could monitor it and alert the physician when levels are outside of an expected range.

    With this type of engagement and home monitoring, patients may have better outcomes and only need to see a physician in person once or twice a year for diabetes check-ups, he says.

    In addition, future engagement efforts will be more tailored to each individual patient based on his or her demographics, psychographics and preferences, says Oldenburg. “The burden of figuring this out won’t be on the provider—it will be based on intelligence happening behind the scenes,” she adds. 

    Regardless of the method, patient engagement is about empowerment, says Franzetti. “What you really want is for the patient to take ownership of their own healthcare. Having all these patient engagement tools in place gives them those resources to do that,” she says.

    Basch agrees, adding that engagement isn’t an option—it’s a necessity. “I suggest that we do like every other industry,” he says, “that we learn to take advantage of information technology in a thoughtful caring way that keeps patient centeredness first and foremost.” 


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