Patient Engagement and Stage 2: Crafting a Plan

October 24, 2014
Aubrey Westgate

Meaningful use requirements that require more patient engagement may be the most difficult for physicians. Here's how to meet them head on at your practice.

What aspect of Stage 2 of the government's EHR Incentive Program has you most worried? If it's the requirements related to patient engagement, you are not alone.

Over the past year, experts have warned repeatedly that much of a provider's success or failure in the Stage 2 requirements of meaningful use will depend on whether that provider manages to get his patients to actively engage with the practice electronically.

To help identify more specifically which requirements providers need to focus on most closely when it comes to patient engagement, and to provide some guidance regarding how providers should best approach these requirements, we asked Dennis P.H. Mihale and Travis Bond to weigh in.

Mihale is the chief medical officer at CareSync and Bond is president and CEO of CareSync, a health IT consultancy that builds technology products and services.

The pair shared some insights with Physicians Practice via e-mail as a preview of their upcoming session at the 2014 Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

Physicians Practice: Which of the Stage 2 requirements related to patient engagement do you think providers will most struggle with, and why?Mihale and Bond: The core competency [requirement to], "provide patients the ability to view online, download and transmit their health information within four business days of the information being available to the EP," has two parts.

The second one requires that more than 5 percent of a provider's patients view, download, or transmit data from the portal. It's pretty hard to make people do something. Our talk focuses on how to make this happen.

Physicians Practice: Your session description notes that "achievement of these [patient engagement] requirements calls for a specific management plan." Can you describe more fully what you mean by a "management plan"?Mihale and Bond: We mean that practices need an actual project plan, with tasks, deliverables, and owners assigned to each task, and dates by which each task must be completed. Too many practices have vague guidelines and, after meeting for months and not succeeding, have to rush to engage an expert. We believe that enough planning on the front-end can help practices avoid lots of headaches down the road.

Physicians Practice: What are some of the key elements that you believe must be included in this management plan?Mihale and Bond: First, as we shared above, specific tasks with deliverables, owners, and dates are essential. Our toolkit, which represents a management plan (and which we will discuss further during our session) has 33 elements to it.

The plan includes such simple things as making sure to choose a team, assign a leader, and agree on the purpose of the plan. It has some technical points such as reviewing the 17 core competencies of meaningful use. It also speaks to more difficult tasks such as patient engagement.

Physicians Practice: Since the patient engagement piece will be so challenging, can you share a couple of your tips regarding how practices should approach these requirements?Mihale and Bond: Develop an onboarding plan to help engage patients on the portal. You must be prepared to explain the program, gain their approval, and support them in using any new technology. Start with a pilot and make the onboarding very personalized and one-on-one. There should be 100 percent follow up (with all patients) to verify they are comfortable with program and technology.   

Physicians Practice: Overall, what knowledge do you hope MGMA attendees will come away from your session with?Mihale and Bond: A clear understanding of the challenge, a toolkit to help them manage the challenge, and the confidence that they can be ready when the time comes.

Mihale and Bond will be sharing more of their thoughts at the MGMA14 conference during their session entitled, "Achieving Meaningful Use Patient Electronic Access Requirements." Their session will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 28, from 10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.