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How Patient Engagement Policies Increase Portal Use

By Vera Gruessner

- The healthcare industry is moving forward into a new generation of patient care focused on new technologies, mobile health tools, remote monitoring, accountable care, and patient engagement. In fact, patient engagement policies and the implementation of EHR systems has grown significantly due to the HITECH Act.

Patient Portal Use

Once the HITECH Act led to the passage of meaningful use requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, many medical facilities began implementing EHR technology and health IT systems to improve patient safety and receive financial incentives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Along with the meaningful use objectives pushing for EHR implementation, certain requirements call for an increase to patient engagement policies.

In particular, eligible healthcare providers had the task of ensuring that at least 5 percent of their patient base accessed, downloaded, or shared their private health information, as previously required by the Stage 2 Meaningful Use objectives. These rulings led hospitals and clinics to adopting patient portals as one of their patient engagement policies.

However, many healthcare professionals lament that it is difficult for them to be responsible for the actions of their patients. To learn how some medical facilities implement patient engagement policies in ways to increase patient portal use, EHRIntelligence.com spoke with Dr. Tracy Lawrence, an emergency care physician at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

“We have a portal and our goal is to get as many patients as we can using it. We first have our personnel start the process of encouraging patient portal use by getting email addresses from our patients. Upon discharge or at the bedside, our clinicians show patients how to go into the portal. This is one avenue we use to engage patients,” Lawrence explained.

“The most important thing, within the hospital setting, is patient education. Showing patients that portals have data to access and getting them excited about data [is important]. Often, patients don’t understand how to get onto the portal. It’s helpful to put it right in front of them and walk them through it,” Lawrence described.

Along with using the typical patient portal as an avenue for strengthening patient engagement policies, mobile health tools such as apps or wearable devices could also play a role in engaging patients with their health and wellness. Whether patients use telehealth physician consults or remote monitoring technology, the new devices available in the healthcare field seem to gain greater patient satisfaction as a whole.

In a Health Affairs blog, Dawn Morton-Rias, a physician assistant, wrote about how patient satisfaction could be increased by focusing on how well the patients are treated, how effective the communication channels are between patients and providers, and whether they understand their medication instruction and follow-up care.

Additionally, Morton-Rias mentioned the importance of including physician assistants in the overall measurement of patient engagement policies and patient satisfaction rates. Most surveys focus on the quality of care doctors and nurses provide, but few mention physician assistants. However, these team members play an integral role in boosting patient education once an individual has been admitted to the hospital and upon discharge.

“Physician assistants are trained in the medical model and are the only providers other than physicians who are licensed by state medical boards. Also like physicians, they are the only providers who recertify throughout their career by fulfilling ongoing and robust certification maintenance requirements and passing a national recertification exam every 10 years,” Morton-Rias wrote.

“The increasing demand for access to care has pushed PAs to actively develop and manage innovative care models. The successful experience that physicians, employer groups, and most significantly, patients have had with PAs makes it probable that they will continue to be solicited for ways to improve quality and patient satisfaction while reducing cost.”

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