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Patient Engagement, Coordination Key to Healthcare Reform

By Vera Gruessner

- The healthcare industry has been transformed in recent years due to ongoing reforms and medical technology adoption. Patient engagement, for instance, has been a key aspect of healthcare reform. Meaningful use requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs has pushed forward the need for patient engagement and enabled patients to access and download their electronic health data.

Patient Engagement Initiatives

Today, the majority of healthcare providers across the country have developed patient portals in which the ordinary consumer can view their medical information, message their doctor securely, and receive appointment reminders.

mHealthIntelligence.com has previously reported how patient portals and the OpenNotes project enabling patients to see their doctors’ notes could be beneficial across the healthcare continuum.

The OpenNotes began five years ago and has now offered more than five million patients the opportunity to view their doctors’ notes. Along with boosting patient engagement, this type of information access could reduce medical errors, as patients would be able to review the data and offer important feedback.

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  • Currently, patient engagement efforts are being pushed forward in a large number of regions across the country. For example, the San Bernardino County Sun publication reported that patient engagement initiatives are going to be discussed at a Town Hall meeting held by the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center.

    Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald took part in setting up the Town Hall meeting in order to better engage patients and learn about their needs within the healthcare setting.

    Currently, a new 271,000 square-foot ambulatory care center is being built to better serve veterans in need of healthcare services. The medical facility is predicted to open by the Spring of 2016.

    Along with patient engagement reforms, the healthcare industry also aims to improve its care coordination efforts. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System is an ideal example of well-coordinated, data-driven healthcare services, which could bring the rest of the nation toward better care coordination, improved quality of medical care, and lower costs.

    “When you go to these communities in central Pennsylvania that I’d never heard of, they’re depressed old coal-mining towns and there’s not a lot happening,” Dr. David Feinberg, Chief Executive of the Geisinger Health System, told the Wall Street Journal. “Then you get to the guys at their clinic. It just felt light years ahead of everywhere else. All these things that Geisinger put in place around decreasing variation and providing just what you need—it just makes so much sense. [The patients are] not cynical. They’re appreciative.”

    This particular healthcare organization has been an early pioneer in implementing medical technologies and electronic medical records. Additionally, the Geisinger Health System runs its own health insurance company, which covers many of its own patients.

    “Every time we’ve gone into one of those communities that are all different than central Pennsylvania, we’ve been able to show dramatic reduction in ER visits and dramatic reduction in readmission rates,” Feinberg continued. “The stuff that’s been proven in Geisinger is exportable. That’s totally clear now.”

    The hospital system is also working in increasing the number of partnering organizations it works with in order to boost healthcare services and patient health outcomes. This type of well-coordinated physician workflow is key toward improving the quality of care across the nation. Additionally, greater collaboration between insurers and providers may be key toward reducing overall healthcare costs.

    “I come from a place where the insurance company, by and large, was the bad guy,” Feinberg explained. “I was in a fee-for-service mind-set. You wanted to get as much as you could, and they wanted to give as little. When we’re entering a new market from the insurance side, our [medical staff] are part of that business model. Everybody is saying, how do we provide great care for less money?”

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