Better Patient Engagement Leads to Better Health

The key to improving the healthcare system is for physicians to engage patients in their own care. But as patient volume increases and a physician shortage continues to be a problem, what can providers do to engage patients? Take a tip from other industries that use technology to automate tasks that frees up human resources and empowers consumers.

Alexandra Kimball, M.D., MPH, Kristen Corey, M.D., and Joseph Kvedar, M.D., in this 2014 essay in Medical Economics explained: “As customers, we now do our own banking, pump our own gas, assemble our own furniture, check ourselves in at the airport and out at the grocery store. These examples allow those providing services to use human resources more efficiently, contributing to increased worker productivity. In most cases, the advent of these strategies was viewed with concern, but now all are almost universally viewed as empowering consumers. Can we follow this model of customer empowerment and create an architecture that allows us to engage patients in their healthcare?”

Tools that aid in patient engagement already exist, including online appointments (very common), remote monitoring (less common) and online, telemedicine visits (rare). “As the burden of chronic illness increases, one of the consequences will be the need to use brick and mortar resources more thoughtfully,” the authors in theMedical Economics essay said. “Visits to physicians for routine interactions or data collection can be moved into an asynchronous, online environment, creating opportunities for increased efficiency.”

The authors noted that research supports the efficacy of online visits by showing no difference in outcomes for patients with gestational diabetes who received follow-up and monitoring care via telemedicine versus patients who received care in a conventional setting.

St. Rita’s Medical Center, a Catholic Health Partners (CHP) hospital in Lima, Ohio, found better patient engagement and improved health outcomes after implementing a patient engagement app called MyChart Bedside. “It allows hospital patients to use tablet computers to look up test results, order ice chips, and do much more,” explained Stephen Beck, M.D., CMIO at CHP. “Some patients even take tablets home as they recover, [the hospitals’ goal being] improving patient satisfaction and reducing readmissions.”

Beck said the results were an improved patient experience, reduced readmissions and better patient understanding of why they were admitted and taking prescribed medications.”

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