Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD

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What Healthcare Technologies Improve Patient Engagement?

By Vera Gruessner

- Patient engagement is a major goal of the healthcare industry today due to the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and meaningful use requirements pushing forward the mandate for ensuring patients are able to access, download, and transmit their electronic health information. As such, there has been a spread of patient portals, secure messaging platforms, and mobile health tools to boost patient engagement throughout the healthcare field.

Secure Messaging Platforms

Stage 1 and Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements have brought about the use of secure electronic messaging platforms between physicians and patients, according to EHRIntelligence.com. Patient portals can be useful for accessing medical and lab results, requesting drug refills, and viewing digital medical records.

Along with patient portals and secure messaging, mobile health applications and wearable devices are also important tools for improving patient engagement among the public. Clearly, a wide variety of technologies will play a role in better engaging patients with their health and wellness in an effort to have better outcomes.

HealthITAnalytics.com reported that ensuring greater patient engagement has led many hospitals and healthcare organizations to make it to the top of the “Most Wired” Hospital list for 2015. The results show that 81 percent of Most Wired hospitals have clinicians communicate with patients via portals and email while only 63 percent of the entire hospital segment use these particular tools to keep track of their patients.

“At Mercy Health, technology helps us drive better care for our patients and also allows our patients to talk with us directly and take steps to manage their own care,”  Rebecca Sykes, Chief Information Officer at the Ohio-based health system, formally known as Catholic Health Partners, told the news source. “Our rollout of a bedside tablet featuring the patient portal in our inpatient facilities allows patients access to their own hospital data, such as biographies of their care team, medication interaction information and test results. This latest option for accessing electronic data has improved patient education and satisfaction.”

“Investing in technologies including clinical dashboards, electronic medical records and patient portals was the right thing to do for our patients and that investment is paying off in timely and appropriate care that changes our patients’ lives for the better.” 

As patient engagement continues to be seen as an imperative aspect of the healthcare industry, it grows more important to consider the security aspects of mobile health applications, patient portals, and healthcare company Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.

HealthITSecurity.com reported that the nursing profession could benefit from secure messaging as well as effective BYOD policies throughout healthcare facilities that are attempting to boost patient engagement.

“What we’re seeing is the BYOD as sort of a phenomenon and how healthcare enterprises are going to deal with that,” TigerText CEO Brad Brooks told the news source.  “They’ve sort of gotten over the hump when it comes to physicians, but then there’s this other question about nursing. Nursing becomes a little more complicated because sometimes there are union-based roles around using your personal device. But, many are using them anyway for purposes of communication with physicians. That’s because ultimately, SMS as a form of communication is very powerful. It’s really a priority channel.”

“They know that’s the best way to reach their physician, and get a quick back and forth. But it’s not compliant, because it is completely unencrypted and there are associated security risks with that. The question is, are hospitals adjusting to that policy of allowing nurses to use BYOD?  Are they going to reimburse them for it or not? Are they opening up budget items to buy devices? I think that’s sort of a trend that we expect to get sorted out over the next year or so with a lot of the larger systems out there, and then others will probably follow suit.”

As healthcare organizations continue to press toward greater patient engagement, secure electronic messaging, patient portals, mobile health tools or apps, wearable devices, and strong BYOD policies will all play a role in ensuring consumers are engaged with their health. Patient privacy and security will also play a role in the development of these types of technologies. With stronger patient engagement, the quality of healthcare services as well as population health outcomes will improve.

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