Getting imPatient

Vendors, policymakers call on patients to make themselves heard
By Mike Miliard
12:00 AM

FOA new advocacy group wants to change the conversation about patient engagement - giving voice to healthcare consumers and pushing for more fruitful data exchange between patients and their physicians.
The imPatient Movement was founded by NoMoreClipboard, Microsoft HealthVault and Indiana Health Information Technology Inc. - and is actively seeking new members.
Its mission is to "empower patients, healthcare providers and health IT organizations to collaborate and advocate for swift and meaningful action in making electronic health information accessible, interoperable and actionable."
So far, the initiative has found some friends in high places.
"The imPatient campaign recognizes what we firmly believe - that both patient and provider attitudes must change in order to achieve the full potential of eHealth, and that both parties will benefit from having greater access to and use of electronic health data," Farzad Mostashari, MD, national coordinator, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, said about the group in a press statement.
This past summer, a NeHC survey found that even as providers recognize the importance of patient engagement, they're unsure how best to do it. One-third of respondents said their strategies for consumer engagement with health IT were not clearly defined at all. Just 8 percent consider their roadmaps were very clearly defined.
"Our survey shows that a majority of organizations believe in the strategic importance of consumer engagement yet their strategies are understandably nascent," said NeHC CEO Kate Berry.
But engagement is more important than ever - and not just because Stage 2 meaningful use is making it a core must-do for federal incentive payments. Patient satisfaction is also a key component of payment reform, accounting for nearly one-third of the score for Medicare's Value-Based Purchasing program.
That's partly why Axial Exchange, a developer of patient engagement technologies, unveiled its Patient Engagement Index this past month, which ranks U.S. hospitals based on how involved their patient communities are with their own care.
"Patient engagement matters to hospital success and to our nation as a whole," said Joanne Rohde, CEO of Axial Exchange. "It's time we put a stake in the ground that patient engagement is core to the quality of health care and the success, both financially and in terms of outcomes, of healthcare providers."
Patients are getting frustrated with a lack of avenues better take control of their health data. As Andrew VanZee, Indiana's statewide health IT director, put it when the imPatient movement was announced, "We are hearing from residents who are growing impatient with their inability to access, manage and share their health information with a tool of their choosing."
Meanwhile, he said, "providers are also impatient with the lack of patient engagement solutions that will help them satisfy meaningful use requirements and foster patient loyalty without disrupting workflow."
Yes, the imPatient movement is founded by two patient portal vendors. Surely there's at least a smidgeon of self-interest involved. But the mission, says Sean Nolan, chief architect of Microsoft HealthVault, is to "foster a dialogue between patients and their healthcare providers about the importance of working together."
That's why the site is soliciting patients and providers alike to share their experiences and opinions via its blog community, hopefully gaining perspective and advice from other clinicians and consumers. 

On the provider side, "there's been a significant shift in attitude," in recent years, says NoMoreClipboard President Jeff Donnell. "It's gone from, 'Why are we even talking about this? Why is it even important?' to recognition that this is important."
Now, the trick is to take that recognition and help the snowball to get some momentum.
"The attitude, historically, was that these patients will never use the kinds of tools," says Donnell. "That they're not tech savvy."
Turns out, however, that research has shown that nearly three quarters of patients, if provided with a personal health record and taught how to use it, "were active or very active users," he says.
"Over a six month time period, they measured their engagement and also did lab tests. What they showed was that not only did their attitudes and engagement in their care improve, but they also saw clinical improvement."
So far, says Donnell, the imPatient movement has found a willing audience. Patients have been submitting their stories for the website, and several other organizations are primed to sign on to the movement.
"After pushing the rock up the hill for a long, long time we've kind of reached the crest of the hill and the rock is starting to roll down the other side and picking up speed."