Smart data key to patient engagement

'The patient has to be a contributing member of the care team, not just a bystander'
By Mike Miliard
10:39 AM

We hear a lot about patient engagement these days. Certainly, the idea is a noble one. And the benefits it could bring when practiced on a wide scale are immense. But a lot of providers are still wondering: How do you do it?

[See also: Patient engagement gains momentum]

With Stage 2 meaningful use mandating that 5 percent of patients view, download, and transmit their own health data, many hospitals and practices are nervous about whether that threshold can be met. (Imagine if it were 10 percent, as was initially proposed by CMS?)

But beyond the box-checking of MU, there's of course a much more compelling argument for getting people more involved in their own care.

[See also: Power to the people! Engaging patients]

At the Healthcare Business Intelligence Forum, April 16-17 in Washington, a panel of experts will discuss ways data can open new paths of communication between patients and providers, enabling care coordination and paving the way toward population health.

Thompson H. Boyd, MD, physician liaison at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia; Leslie Kelly Hall, senior vice president of Healthwise; and Jan Oldenburg, principal at Jan Oldenburg Consulting, will offer their perspectives on this pivotal new era, where troves of new insight are now readily accessible in electronic health records and patients are creating health data of their own via wellness apps and wearable devices.

The distinction between providers having access to data – using it to pinpoint the chronic patients who need care the most – and being able to provide appropriate data to their patients – which can be used to tailor treatments and drive behavior change – is an important one. To truly spur effective engagement, both must work in tandem.

Boyd's hospital has recently launched a patient portal. "We're really in our infancy right now," he says. "Getting the physicians involved – to tell the patients, 'We want you to do this," is a critical early step. "We're trying to reduce the barriers to getting patients enrolled, getting them signed on. We're changing some workflows: Having the physicians say, 'This is good, you've got to get on,' is going to be key."

But for all the work providers are doing building consumer-facing technology and ensuring it gets used, some onus must also be placed on the patient.

"There should be the thought of accountability and expectations on behalf of the patient," he says. "The patient has to be a contributing member of the care team, not just a bystander."

Boyd points to University of Oregon researcher Judith Hibbard, whose work tracks patient activation "scores." She found that for patients with lower activation scores, the quality of care is lower, the expenses are higher. When patients "are more active and motivated, the quality goes up and the cost goes down."

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