Thanks to mobile and online tools, patients and physicians are more in tune than ever before. According to CDW's 2017 Patient Engagement Perspectives study, almost 70 percent of patients have become more engaged with their healthcare in the past few years.
The survey interviewed 200 patients and 200 providers, including physicians and assistants, to understand the impact of digital tools on communication outreach efforts. The study found that patient portals and telemedicine are helpful in increasing patient engagement. In the survey, 71 percent of providers agree that improving patient engagement is the biggest priority at their medical practice. Also, 80 percent of providers are working on different tools to make personal healthcare records easier to access.
So what’s steering this increasing interest in increased communication?
With value-based care compelling doctors to increase patient satisfaction, portals are proving to be a critical tool to engage and empower patients outside the office. Some online health portals offer patients the ability to exchange messages with their physicians, view medical records, schedule appointments and request prescription refills.
Sharing medical records is likely to improve patient outcomes as well as the healthcare process. For instance, OpenNotes, a tool that allows patients to access remarks written by doctors through a secure online portal, is looking to improve patient care through greater engagement. Launched in 2010, more than 12 million patients have access to OpenNotes, and more than 20 health systems are likely to join.
In the survey conducted last year, there was an almost 30 percent increase in the number of patients joining online portals. Currently, nearly 74 percent of patients have joined a portal offered by their provider.
Elderly patients over the age of 50 feel comfortable with the web-based services, and almost all patients feel secure communicating through online portals. Physicians believe these portals are improving patient care..
In order to continue pushing patient engagement through digital tools, it is important to identify what patients are looking for in a portal and implement an easy-to-use interface to ensure all patients can use the system. However, in order to increase patient engagement, patients will need to understand what the portal is capable of offering.
According to research firm, Tractica, telehealth video consultations are likely to soar to 158.4 million annually by 2020. Supported by a pool of digitally savvy patients, and technology advances such as smartwatches and mobile applications, the outlook for telemedicine looks very optimistic.
However, neither patients nor physicians seem ready to shift to an entirely virtual arena. In fact, according to a report, only 20 percent of patients and 9 percent of physicians report feeling “comfortable” with the idea of telemedicine, citing privacy concerns and their inability to have a thorough consultation. On the other side, only 30 percent of patients are optimistic that telemedicine would be valuable in allowing them to become more engaged in their healthcare options.
In a nutshell, patient and provider trust levels are one of the significant barriers to heavier telemedicine adoption, according to reports by the American Telemedicine Association.
Plus if you dig deeper, a lack of return on investment could also be a potential reason for slow adoption of telemedicine. Another study, conducted by the Rand Corporation on direct-to-consumer telehealth, recommends that while telemedicine offers more convenient patient care features, it also increases healthcare spending.
Still, as the adoption of digital tools continues to rise, implementing creative methods, such as integrating telehealth and implementing targeted patient outreach could help boost the value of patient care through telehealth.
Manish Chauhan is Digital Marketing Manager at myPracticeReputation which is an easy-to-use reputation management solution for physicians to help monitor, protect and promote their medical practices at all times in the simplest way possible.