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Patient Engagement Key to ACO Development, Telemedicine

By Vera Gruessner

- Patient engagement and the patient experience continues to be a key aspect of healthcare reform throughout hospitals and clinics around the country. As medical care providers move toward value-based care and develop Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), many are finding that patient engagement will drive the reform toward better quality care and improved health outcomes.

Patient Engagement and Experience

For example, the Healthcare Transformation Taskforce released an Action Memo that discussed the importance of patient-centered care in the maintenance of ACOs. In the contracts of ACO developments, there must be information acknowledging the patient’s relationship with a primary care physician.

This means that all medical teams will need to collaborate on a patient’s care including planning goals, sharing clinical decision-making responsibilities, and developing ongoing monitoring procedures for each patient. Clearly, patient engagement and experience will play a key role in running an Accountable Care Organization.

The different medical teams will need to support communication and coordination during transitions of care, specialist referrals, or when patients need specific tests or procedures completed. Additionally, patient engagement refers to ensuring patients are able to quickly and efficiently communicate with their medical care providers.

In general, patients and their caregivers are expected to have access to care 24 hours per day and seven days a week. This access has to be to providers who know the patient’s case and have access to their electronic medical record.

This may include telephone access or a telemedicine consultation with one’s healthcare provider. Earlier this month, mHealthIntelligence.com spoke with Dr. Reena Pande, a Cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, about how telemedicine services actually improve patient engagement throughout the healthcare industry.

“I do strongly believe that making it simple for a patient and a provider to engage with one another remotely – by telephone or video – and removing the barriers is a key factor to improving patient engagement. It is beneficial to simplify access to that type of care and reach a provider at a time that patients need to,” Dr. Pande explained.

“It helps in several ways to improve engagement. One is that patients will take advantage of it in a much more timely way. They may not wait a week or more to get into their PCP’s office or an emergency department. They may be more apt to use the new mechanism and that might make access to care more readily available,” Pande concluded. “There’s a timeliness to it and people may be more apt to want to participate in their own care when they can do it in a simpler fashion.”

With telemedicine services and patient engagement going hand-in-hand, it is important to recognize the wide range of areas that telehealth technology could benefit. For instance, a new paper published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that telehealth care could offer the necessary support patients need by expanding access to board-certified sleep medicine experts, according to the organization’s news release.

The paper offers key considerations for sleep medicine specialists to address when adopting telehealth technology into their practice such as legal and ethical issues, clinical aspects of telemedicine, and quality assurance.

One area that the paper delves into is ensuring that telehealth visits have the same clinical standards as in-person visits. Using telemedicine could truly boost patient engagement with their own health and wellness including sleep quality.

“The integration of telemedicine in sleep medicine practices across the country is an important step forward to improve patient access to high quality sleep health care,” AASM President Dr. Nathaniel Watson said in a public statement. “Widespread access to the expertise of sleep specialists is desperately needed throughout the U.S., where an estimated 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems.”

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