A decade ago, electronic health records (EHRs) were still in their infancy, and industry observers were buzzing over the technology’s transformative potential.
In the leadup to the 2010 Annual HIMSS Conference and Exhibition, the federal government had just released its Meaningful Use criteria, as well as its interim final rule on EHR technology standards and specifications, and there was a feeling that EHRs would forever change the face of healthcare.
Close to 30,000 attendees traveled that year with the expectation that they would leave with a better understanding of the technologies and techniques they needed for success in the new decade. A close examination of the agenda for HIMSS 2010 points to the atmosphere of the era. “Change is everywhere...opportunity is here,” the conference’s tagline reads.
Interestingly enough, the same is true today.
Nearly Every Provider Has an EHR… Now What?
Just as EHRs transformed the healthcare industry over the last decade, patient engagement platforms stand poised to transform the industry yet again. While 80% of office-based physicians and 96% of hospitals use certified EHR technology, according to the latest National Electronic Health Records Survey, far fewer have adopted an effective patient engagement strategy.
Unfortunately, many providers are not sure where to start when it comes to patient engagement or how to build on the techniques they already have in place. No wonder online searches for the term “patient engagement” are up 165% today versus a decade ago.
For years, most relied on basic patient portals for direct communication with consumers. Some adopted additional health IT solutions to serve more specialized, patient-centric goals like remote monitoring. Others adopted tools such as online scheduling to improve the overall patient experience even as new technologies like secure texting emerged and others like telehealth have begun to mature.
Similar to how EHRs changed to fit the needs of providers—for example, by incorporating user-friendly design principles or the latest technologies—patient engagement platforms have grown increasingly sophisticated. The best patient engagement platforms combine communications into a centralized inbox so that the entire care team can clearly track communications. Imagine a workplace where doctors, nurses, and staff can quickly convey status updates across offices, electronically share patient records, video consult with other providers or securely text message with patients—all from one system, with one platform login or even securely accessed from a mobile device. It’s a coordinated, collaborative, cohesive experience for providers and staff. That’s the kind of efficiency that leads to more effective patient care.
Read More: Eleven things to never say to patients
Why Consumerism Makes Patient Engagement More Vital Than Ever
While new technology is certainly driving interest in patient engagement, so too is the trend of healthcare consumerism. As patients pick up a greater share of the costs, they expect greater convenience. These consumers also expect the same level of on-the-go service from their doctors that they receive from their banks or favorite retailers, for example.
Fortunately, the industry is starting to realize that healthcare is a business. To stay competitive and retain patients, it needs to adopt business techniques that match changing patient expectations.
For these consumers, it’s not enough to simply offer a patient portal and consider the box for “patient engagement” checked off. No, today's consumer-minded patients appreciate the convenience of being able to securely text providers or using telehealth technology in lieu of traditional consults—among other tools. They want the option to do everything from their phones without having to download an app or remember a password, and this convenience can outweigh other considerations when patients decide on a provider. Implementing these tools can not only improve the overall patient experience but also create more loyal customers.
In the age of value-based care, where providers are paid based on outcomes and not services rendered, this trend toward consumerism offers an opportunity. If providers offer patients the tools to fit their preferred and personalized communication needs, they are likely to remain engaged and stay healthy. And hospital CIOs are taking note. A 2018 roundtable hosted by Impact Advisors and the Scottsdale Institute found that 17 out of 22 healthcare CIOs ranked improving digital health and optimizing the patient experience as their top two priorities.
You can expect these health IT leaders to spend a good bit of their time at HIMSS 2020 in the brand new Consumerism and Patient Engagement Pavilion this March. While EHRs may have dominated HIMSS topics over the last decade, patient engagement is sure to play a pivotal role in the new one.