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Chronically Ill, Ordinary Consumer Need Patient Engagement

By Vera Gruessner

- The healthcare industry has been determined to meet a number of different meaningful use objectives under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. The implementation of EHR systems and telehealth technology have all been made toward improving the quality of care and health outcomes throughout the medical field as well as receiving financial incentives from the federal government. One major area that meaningful use requirements have shined a spotlight on is patient engagement.

Patient Engagement Portals

Initially, Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements targeted physicians to ensure that at least 5 percent of patients viewed, downloaded, and transmitted their personal health information. The latest proposed ruling, however, has put forth that only one patient per eligible medical practice or hospital needs to have completed the access of their health data. The rulings have brought the adoption of patient portals and the push toward patient engagement across the healthcare industry.

The advancement of patient engagement is vital among a wide variety of medical conditions, especially among patients who are chronically ill. For cancer patients, one solution comes from the company Navigating Cancer, which offers a platform for patient engagement.

Navigating Cancer recently announced in a company press release that the organization has secured a $10 million funding round with the establishments Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, ORIX Healthcare Capital, and investor Rustic Canyon Partners.

At this moment in time, the company offers more than one million cancer patients the opportunity to access their information via a patient engagement portal. The funding gathered will help Navigating Cancer expand the tools and software solutions offered through its patient portal.

“Oncology is moving quickly to value-based medicine, and the need for a comprehensive patient solution for cancer programs is increasingly becoming a core need,” Gena Cook, CEO and Co-Founder of Navigating Cancer, said in a public statement. “With this funding, we will accelerate our pace in delivering the most comprehensive solution in the marketplace.”

While patient engagement is vital among the more chronically ill, it is also necessary for the everyday consumer to integrate patient engagement with health and wellness in their everyday life. For instance, fitness trackers and mobile health tools with appointment reminders and diet tips could all lead to better health and may even prevent certain medical conditions.

One study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that, among patients with cardiac issues, using a computer-based program could potentially boost patient engagement and physical activity among this population. With many individuals today leading sedentary lives, Internet-based solutions and fitness tracking devices could prove substantial in getting more people to exercise.

Currently, many consumers utilize mobile health applications and wearable devices to better manage their wellness, physical fitness, and diet plans. Some patients are using mHealth apps to keep a list of their current, prescribed medications and to receive reminders of refills and when to take each pill.

Pua Cooper, Director of Nursing & Clinical Informatics at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, wrote in a HIMSS contribution piece about some of the complications associated with using mobile applications to track prescribed medication.

“Being an informaticist, the obvious solution was to download a mobile app that could be easily accessed using my smart phone. Let’s start by saying that not all apps are created equally! A simple search resulted in an overwhelming list of options,” Cooper wrote. “After settling on one an hour later, there was a new list of considerations. Do I need to set up an account? Why is it asking me to use my Facebook account? Why is it asking for permission to track my location? It left me questioning whether my personal health information was safe and secure.”

“As healthcare workers, we need to play a more active role educating patients on what technology can offer. Patients need help in understanding what is valuable to their healthcare team and what isn’t. More features do not necessarily make it a better app. Proactively educating patients on what to expect from healthcare apps may minimize frustrations that prevent adoption,” Cooper concluded.

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