Article

Goals of patient engagement systems

Considering the ongoing and rapid change occurring in the health care industry, there are three reasons why comprehensive patient engagement systems are vitally important for health care organizations now.

1) Patient engagement systems are essential for achieving the triple aim of health care: improving quality, providing a better patient experience and reducing the cost of care. In fact, a growing body of evidence shows that patients who are more actively involved with their health care enjoy better health outcomes and incur lower costs. One survey found that people pay more attention and become more engaged in their health and medical care when they have easy access to their health information online–especially people with lower incomes.

2) Patient engagement systems are necessary to meet new standards for quality improvement in healthcare. Patient engagement is a major goal for health care reform initiatives including Meaningful Use, the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model, and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).

  • Meaningful Use Stage 2 requires that health care practices meet particular electronic patient communication measures; the goal of these measures is to use patient engagement systems to encourage informed and empowered patients.

In Meaningful Use Stage 1, practices were required to give patients information electronically, but no specific result was expected or required. In Meaningful Use Stage 2, practices are expected to drive and document patient engagement behavior, including: 1) getting patients to proactively use patient engagement systems to view online, download or transmit their health information; and 2) using secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients.

  • Patient engagement solutions are a key component for medical practices establishing themselves as a PCMH. As the patient becomes the center of new models that focus on quality improvement in healthcare, practices must find ways to improve the patient experience by employing successful patient engagement systems.
  • Both public and private insurance payers are shifting to performance-based models of reimbursement that reward providers for quality outcomes instead of services delivered (known as fee-for service). Patient engagement systems are essential to these evolving value-based payment models, to help drive outcomes efficiently. For example, ACOs will measure patient engagement such as physician communication, access to specialists, health promotion and education, and shared decision-making—all made significantly easier via the use of patient engagement services.

3) Patient engagement systems can improve efficiency, lower costs, and promote patient loyalty for medical practices. In addition to supporting improved health outcomes and adherence to industry mandates, patient engagement systems make good business sense for practices. Patients want online access to their medical records (and, in the case of Stage 2 Meaningful Use, must have it), as well as conveniences like online and after-hours bill paying, appointment scheduling, secure messaging with providers, and requests for prescription refills. And as patients’ responsibility toward the costs of care increases, patients will demand even more convenience and more sophisticated patient engagement solutions. Patients who aren’t satisfied will likely migrate to other practices.

In addition to these three reasons for adopting patient engagement services, recent studies have found that:

  • Providers using patient engagement systems such as patient portals report increased efficiency and appreciate being able to respond to patients at their convenience.
  • Telephone volume decreases when secure messaging is introduced.
  • Patient engagement systems that include portals have lowered indirect and direct labor costs for practices, such as mailing costs for lab results, billing questions answered online versus by phone, online appointment scheduling, and online appointment reminders.

1 Health Affairs/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Patient Engagement. February 2013. Available at: http://www.rwjf.org/en/research-publications/find-rwjf-research/2013/02/patient-engagement.html.

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