Providers still sluggish with health IT

Industry has work to do on patient engagement, survey says

Despite the billions of incentive dollars injected into the healthcare system to spur health information technology adoption and boost patient engagement, traditional forms of communication between provider and patient still dominate, according to a new study.

The majority of providers are still using telephone (91 percent), face-to-face conversations (71 percent) or letters (74 percent) to communicate with patients rather than opting for portals, remote monitoring or online personal health records, according to a new health IT survey sponsored by TCS Healthcare Technologies, the Case Management Society of America and the American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians. 

[See also: Health IT market in growth mode.]

Of the more than 600 healthcare providers surveyed, only 15 percent indicated they were using patient portals to communicate with patients; 7 percent were using remote monitoring devices, and 8 percent were using smartphone applications. 

"Although recent research shows consumers are using smartphone applications regularly in the marketplace, most case managers and responders are not taking advantage of smartphone applications with their patients," the report read, as only 6 percent utilize this type of remote monitoring IT solution. 

Despite the low numbers in the more technologically-advanced forms of communication, however, findings do underscore an uptick in use. Social networking site communication, for example, doubled to nine percent from 2010, and text messaging increased by nearly two-fold in a two year period. And email stands strong, with the majority of providers (54 percent) using it to reach their patients or clients. 

[See also: Health data exchange mired in paper.]

"The acceptance of email communication is a perfect example of how care managers can adopt new technologies that patients are comfortable with, and focus their efforts directly on patient guidance and engagement," said Cheri Lattimer, RN, CMSA executive director, in a news release. "This shift is also indicative of where we need to more diligently address issues and barriers associated with mobile applications, HIPPA restraints, as well as enhance financial and performance alignment to support advancing technology innovations."

Survey findings also highlight a surprisingly lower number of patients having access to a personal health record, compared to two years ago, which report officials said may be due to the uptick in mobile phones and the decrease in personal desktop computers.