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PX2018: The Line Between Patient Experience and Patient Engagement Continues to Blur

Posted on May 4, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

The 2018 Patient Experience Conference, #PX2018, hosted by The Beryl Institute, was a wholly different than previous incarnations. In prior years the central focus was squarely on patient experience. This year, there was significant emphasis placed on patient engagement and activating patients. It was a welcome change.

The Beryl Institute’s annual conference is one of the events I look forward to each year. It is a positive, upbeat, and reaffirming event that brings together healthcare professionals involved with improving patient experience. Attendees come from around the world including: Canada, UK, Sweden and Asia. This gives the event an international flavor and brings together many different perspectives on patient experience.

In 2004, I attended my first patient experience conference. Back then the event was organized and hosted by the Society of Healthcare Consumer Advocacy (SHCA) – a society within the American Hospital Association. In those days, the annual gathering was designed specifically for Patient Feedback professionals and Patient Advocates that worked inside hospitals. The event, was dominated by sessions about patient surveys (later becoming HCAHPS) and timely responses to patient complaints. For many years the annual SHCA event remained operationally focused.

In 2013, SHCA was integrated into The Beryl Institute and things began to shift markedly. Instead of an annual SHCA conference that was narrowly aimed at patient complaints, the new conference from The Beryl Institute was much broader and covered the whole of patient experience. The sessions became less operational and more strategic in nature. Words like “empathy” and phrases like “meeting patients where they are” became part of the hallway chatter.

Fast forward to 2018. “Patient Experience” has become an even broader term and perhaps slightly overused. All sorts of HealthIT companies and consulting firms now boldly state they are in the patient experience business. The term is now used to refer to everything from patient advocacy to patient rights to online reviews (and reputation management) to patient engagement/activation. As the definition has changed, so too has The Beryl Institute conference.

The first hint that something was different came when I scanned the program agenda a few weeks before the conference. There were several sessions that I did not expect to see:

  • Engaging Families and Teams in I-PASS to Improve Patient Safety and Experience
  • OpenNotes: Breaking Barriers, Changing Culture, Engaging Patients
  • Building Operational Capacity for Patient Engagement

I was also pleasantly surprised by the depth and breadth of vendors in the exhibit hall. Companies like OneView, TVR Communications, Relatient and eVariant each had demonstrations of products that educated patients, reminded patients about their care plans and directed patients to the most appropriate service line or physician based on an analysis of their needs. All of these capabilities are focused in the world of patient engagement yet judging by the busy traffic at these booths, it is clear that patient experience professionals are stakeholders and influencers for the purchase of those solutions.

Even consulting companies like Cast & Hue (who did a fun design-thinking exercise in their booth) talked about how they can help healthcare organizations build better processes and workflows to encourage more patient involvement.

I welcome the blurring between patient experience and patient engagement. Although it is possible to be good at one without the other, the goal should be to improve one alongside the other. To me, patient engagement is tangible and measurable – something which was becoming increasingly difficult to do in the world of patient experience pre-2010. I believe a good patient experience is a prerequisite to engaging patients in their care which leads to better outcomes – which is ultimately the goal we are all striving for.

Health Leaders Go Beyond EHRs To Tackle Value-Based Care

Posted on March 30, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In the broadest sense, EHRs were built to manage patient populations — but largely one patient at a time. As a result, it’s little wonder that they aren’t offering much support for value-based care as is, as a recent report from Sage Growth Partners suggests.

Sage spoke with 100 healthcare executives to find out what they saw as their value-based care capabilities and obstacles. Participants included leaders from a wide range of entities, including an ACO, several large physician practices and a midsize integrated delivery network.

The overall sense Sage seems to have gotten from its research was that while value-based care contracts are beginning to pay off, health execs are finding it difficult support these contacts using the EHRs they have in place. While their EHRs can produce quality reports, most don’t offer data aggregation and analytics, risk stratification, care coordination or tools to foster patient and clinician engagement, the report notes.

To get the capabilities they need for value-based contracting, health organizations are layering population health management solutions on top of their EHRs. Though these additional PHM tools may not be fully mature, health executives told Sage that there already seeing a return on such investments.

This is not necessarily because these organizations aren’t comfortable with their existing EHR. The Sage study found that 65% of respondents were somewhat or highly unlikely to replace their EHR in the next three years.

However, roughly half of the 70% of providers who had EHRs for at least three years also have third-party PHM tools in place as well. Also, 64% of providers said that EHRs haven’t delivered many important value-based contracting tools.

Meanwhile, 60% to 75% of respondents are seeking value-based care solutions outside their EHR platform. And they are liking the results. Forty-six percent of the roughly three-quarters of respondents who were seeing ROI with value-based care felt that their third-party population PHM solution was essential to their success.

Despite their concerns, healthcare organizations may not feel impelled to invest in value-based care tools immediately. Right now, just 5% of respondents said that value-based care accounted for over 50% of their revenues, while 62% said that such contracts represented just 0 to 10% of their revenues. Arguably, while the growth in value-based contracting is continuing apace, it may not be at a tipping point just yet.

Still, traditional EHR vendors may need to do a better job of supporting value-based contracting (not that they’re not trying). The situation may change, but in the near term, health executives are going elsewhere when they look at building their value-based contracting capabilities. It’s hard to predict how this will turn out, but if I were an enterprise EHR vendor, I’d take competition with population health management specialist vendors very seriously.

Health Leaders Say Automating Patient Engagement Efforts Will Have Major Impact

Posted on March 12, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Over the last few years, many vendors have rolled out products designed to engage patients further in their care. According to a new study, these solutions may be just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, many healthcare executives see patient-facing, engagement-enhancing technology as critical to the future of healthcare, according to a new study.

The study, by the World Business Group, focuses on technology that can link patients with care in between visits to their primary care center. Patient engagement technologies, which they call “automated care,” have the potential to bridge such gaps by providing AI-based assistance to consumers.

The survey, which was also backed by Conversa Health, drew on direct interviews and survey responses from 134 health execs. The researchers looked at how those execs viewed automated healthcare technologies, how these technologies might be used and whether respondents plan to adopt them.

Respondents were clearly very enthusiastic about these tools. Nearly all (98%) said they believed automated healthcare will be important in creating a continuous, collaborative relationship with providers. The survey also found that 87% of respondents felt that automated healthcare will be helpful in getting patients to engage with their own care.

The next step, of course, is throwing resources at the problem — and it’s happening. Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents said they expected to work on integrating automated healthcare in their organization within the next two years. Also, 44% said that they had a chief patient experience officer or other executive with an equivalent title on board within their organization. This development is fairly new, however, as 40% of these organizations said that the role has existed for two years or less.

Meanwhile, several respondents felt that automating patient healthcare could generate a positive feedback loop. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed reported that they were either integrating or have already integrated patient-generated health data, which they expect, in turn, to integrate into the patient experience efforts.

Among organizations working with patient-generated health data, 73% were gathering patient health histories, 64% treatment histories, 59% lifestyle or social data, 52% symptoms data, and 32% biometric data.

Thirty percent said they were beginning to integrate such data and collect it work effectively, 28% said they could collect some PGHD but had trouble integrating with their systems, 14% said they were just beginning to collect such data and 9% said they were not able to collect this data at all. Just 19% reported they were fully able to collect integrate PGHD and use it to improve patient experiences.

All told, it appears we’re on the cusp of a major change in the role patient services play in provider outreach. It will probably be a few more years before we have a good idea of where all this is headed, but my guess is that it’s heading somewhere useful.

E-Patient Update:  Patients And Families Need Reassurance During EMR Rollouts

Posted on March 5, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Sure, EMR rollouts are stressful for hospital staffers and clinicians. No matter how well you plan, there will still be some gritted teeth and slammed keyboards as they get used to the new system. Some will afraid that they can’t get their job done right and live in fear of making a clinical mistake. All that said, if your rollout is gradual and careful, and your training process is thorough, it’s likely everyone will adjust to the new platform quickly.

The thing is, these preparations leave out two very important groups: patients and their families. What’s more, the problem is widespread. As a chronically ill patient, I visit more hospitals than most people, and I’ve never seen any effective communication that educates patients about the role of the EMR in their care. I particularly remember one otherwise excellent hospital that decorated its walls with asinine posters reading “Epic is here!” I can’t see how that could possibly help staff members make the transition, much less patients and family members.

This has got to change. Hospital IT will always be evolving, but when patients are swept up in and confused by these changes, it distorts everything that’s important in healthcare.

Needless fear

A recent experience my mother had exemplifies this problem. She has been keeping watch over my brother Joseph, who is critically ill with the flu and in an induced coma. For the first few days, as my brother gradually improved, my mother felt very satisfied with the way the clinical staff was handling his case.

Not long after, however, someone informed her that the hospital’s new Epic system was being deployed that day. Apparently, nobody explained what that really meant for her or my brother, and she felt that the ICU nurses and doctors were moving a bit more slowly during the first day or two of the launch. I wasn’t there, but I suspect that she was right.

Of course, if things go well, over the long run the Epic system will fade into the background and have no importance to patients and their families. But that day or two when the rollout came and staff seemed a bit preoccupied, it scared the heck out of her.

Keeping patients in the loop

Don’t get me wrong: I understand why this hospital didn’t do more to educate and reassure my mother. I suspect administrators wouldn’t know how to go about it, and probably feel they don’t they have time to do it. The idea is foreign. After all, communicating with patients about enterprise health IT certainly isn’t standard operating procedure.

But isn’t it time to involve patients in the game? I’m not just talking about consumer-facing technology, but any technology that could reasonably affect their experience and sense of comfort with the care they’re receiving.

Yes, educating patients and families about enterprise IT changes that affect them is probably out of most health IT leaders’ comfort zones. But truthfully, that’s no excuse for inaction. Launching an Epic system isn’t inside-baseball process — it affects everyone who visits the hospital. Come on, folks, let’s get this right.

RCM Tips And Tricks: To Collect More From Patients, Educate And Engage Them

Posted on November 1, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Hospitals face particularly difficult challenges when trying to collect on patient bills. When you mix complex pricing structures, varied contracts with health insurers and dizzying administrative issues, it’s hard to let patients know what they’re going to owe, much less collect it.

Luckily, RCM leaders can make major progress with patient collections if they adopt some established (but often neglected) strategies. In short, to collect more from patients you need to educate them about healthcare financial issues, develop a trusted relationship with them and make it easy for them to pay that bill.

As a thought exercise, let’s assume that most patients want to pay their bills, but may need encouragement. While nobody can collect money from consumers that refuse to pay, you can help the willing ones prepare for the bills they’ll get. You can teach them to understand their coverage. In some cases, you can collect balances ahead of time. Toss in some smart patient engagement strategies and you could be golden.

What will that look like in practice? Check out this list of steps hospitals can take to improve RCM results directly, courtesy of a survey of hospital execs by Becker’s Hospital Review:

  • Sixty-five percent suggested that telling patients the amount due before they come to an appointment would be helpful.
  • Fifty-two percent believe that having more data on patients’ likelihood to pay could improve patient collections results
  • Forty-seven percent said that speaking to clients in different ways depending on the state of the finances would help improve patient collections.
  • Forty-two percent said that offering customers payment plans would be valuable.

Of course, you won’t be doing this in a vacuum, and some of the trends affecting patient financial responsibility are beyond your control. For example, unless something changes dramatically, many patients will continue to struggle with high-deductible health coverage. Nobody – except the health insurers – likes this state of affairs, but it’s a fact of life.

Also, it’s worth noting that boosting patient engagement can be complicated and labor-intensive. To connect with patients effectively, hospitals will need to fight a war on many fronts. That means not only speaking to patients in ways they understand, but also offering well-thought-out hospital-branded mobile apps, an effective online presence and more. You’ll want to do whatever it takes to foster patient loyalty and trust. Though this may sound intimidating, you’ll like the results you get.

However, there are a few strategies that hospitals can implement relatively quickly. In fact, the Becker’s survey results suggest that hospitals already know what they need to do — but haven’t gotten around to it.

For example, 87% of hospital respondents said they had a problem with collecting co-pays before appointments, 85% said knowing how much patients can pay was important, and 76% of respondents said that simplifying bills was a problem for them. While it may be harder than it looks to execute on these strategies, it certainly isn’t impossible.

Patient Engagement and Collaborative Care with Drex DeFord

Posted on August 7, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

#Paid content sponsored by Intel.

You don’t see guys like Drex DeFord every day in the health IT world. Rather than following the traditional IT career path, he began his career as a rock ‘n roll disc jockey. He then served as a US Air Force officer for 20 years — where his assignments included service as regional CIO for 12 hospitals across the southern US and CTO for Air Force Health — before focusing on private-sector HIT.

After leaving the Air Force, he served as CIO of Scripps Health, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Steward Health before forming drexio digital health (he describes himself as a “recovering CIO”). Drex is also a board member for a number of companies and was on the HIMSS National board and the Chairman of CHIME.

Given this extensive background in healthcare IT leadership, we wanted to get Drex’s insights into patient engagement and collaborative care. As organizations have shifted to value based reimbursement, this has become a very important topic to understand and implement in an organization. Have you created a culture of collaborative care in your organization? If not, this interview with Drex will shed some light on what you need to do to build that culture.

You can watch the full video interview embedded below or click from this list of topics to skip to the section of the video that interests you most:

What are you doing in your organization to engage patients? How are you using technology to facilitate collaborative care?

The Cost of Encouraging Patient Engagement

Posted on June 15, 2016 I Written By

Erin Head is the Director of Health Information Management (HIM) and Quality for an acute care hospital in Titusville, FL. She is a renowned speaker on a variety of healthcare and social media topics and currently serves as CCHIIM Commissioner for AHIMA. She is heavily involved in many HIM and HIT initiatives such as information governance, health data analytics, and ICD-10 advocacy. She is active on social media on Twitter @ErinHead_HIM and LinkedIn. Subscribe to Erin's latest HIM Scene posts here.

We all know that healthcare providers want to encourage patient engagement to ensure patients have the information they need to manage conditions and share information with other providers. There has been a longstanding push for the adoption and maintenance of personal health records for many years to give patients the power to share and disseminate information wherever it is needed. We have seen a remarkable new interest in this with Meaningful Use and population health initiatives. Since HIM professionals are charged with maintaining and producing legal copies of records, we are aware that the tasks surrounding these processes can be very expensive. This is especially true if any of the tasks are not handled properly and breaches of protected information occur.

My concern is that lately I have heard many discussions that are pushing for more access yet with fewer costs to patients to encourage patient engagement. Some are even pushing for patients to have “free” access to records- paper or electronic. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent for patients having copies of their records and I personally keep copies of my own records. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recently published further guidance on charging for records. In a nutshell, the OCR says: “copying fees should be reasonable. They may include the cost of labor for creating and delivering electronic or paper copies; the cost of supplies, including paper and portable media such as CDs or USB drives; and the cost of postage when copies of records are mailed to patients at their request.” The OCR actually has the authority to audit the costs of producing records if they feel your organization is violating this patient right and overcharging for release of information.

Living in a state such as Florida where the state law has allowed facilities to charge up to $1 per page means most facilities have charged $1 per page without blinking an eye. The latest OCR guidance has led to questioning if that amount is actually “reasonable” or true to cost. Afterall, HIM professionals must use expensive systems, supplies, and labor costs to produce these records. Many organizations have outsourced release of information functions (another cost) but it is still the responsibility of the custodian of records to oversee the processes for compliance.

That being said, it is beneficial for HIM departments to evaluate the expenses and methods used to produce records as technologies and laws change. Dr. Karen Desalvo of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) strives to lead the EMR interoperability movement. At the top of the ONC’s list of commitments is consumer access to records. HIM professionals should continue to assist in the quest for interoperability and electronic data sharing at the notion of patient engagement. We must lead patients to use EMR patient portals and facilitate the efficient electronic data sharing among healthcare providers. We must be creative in lowering overhead costs to produce and maintain the records in order to ensure costs are affordable for healthcare consumers. There will always be costs associated with this important task, whether on the provider’s end or the patient’s end, just as costs are incurred with most services or products in every industry.

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts by Erin in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

3 EHR Gaps That Hinder Systematic Chronic Disease Management

Posted on May 2, 2016 I Written By

3 EHR Gaps That Hinder Systematic Chronic Disease Management

The following is a guest blog post by Andrei Khomushka.

An EHR typically contains multiple highlights of patients’ health, including observations, lab results, diagnoses and treatment plans. However, this data might be insufficient for systematic chronic care management, and there are 3 key reasons for that.

1. Interrupted care setting

Most EHRs are built around the idea that patients control their conditions to the extent that they can arrange timely appointments with their doctors should disturbing symptoms arise. However, the no-shows rate is still high (up to 55%, according to Family Medicine, 2013), and chronic patients often tend to overlook and mistreat symptoms. Leading to occasional appointments in acute situations. This breaks patient data and thus care delivery. So, EHRs can’t show the real picture of a disease progression.

Only continuous care and health tracking can help prevent, or at least detect early complications and exacerbations. As EHRs simply don’t have the tracking functionality, providers need additional solutions bound to their EHRs. For example, mobile patient apps connect individuals and caregivers, allowing the former to sync medical devices and continuously share their health data with doctors, thus ensuring remote monitoring of health status. Then, this information is automatically analyzed and aligned with the EHR so it’s always up-to-date.

2. Lack of patient engagement

As individuals can’t access EHRs directly, they don’t provide any patient engagement elements. Patients can only interact with the EHR data (to some extent) by visiting the patient portal. Here is your chance to engage them. With the standard functionality, such as appointment scheduling, e-billing, lab results checking, portals allow setting goals, sharing achievements across social media, exploring interactive learning materials and more.

However, systematic chronic care is more effective when a technology is proactive and connected to a patient’s daily life (patient portals can’t beat mobile patient apps here). This way, when multiple personal encouragements, guidelines and notifications are already in your pocket, it’s easier to control a chronic condition.

3. Patient-generated data missing

Most EHRs can’t collect and store patient-generated information such as physical activity, nutrition, daily subjective and objective. To benefit from daily updates of patients’ health statuses, we suggest implementing a separate solution integrated with the EHR. This will automatically process and analyze data to identify condition changes that require a physician’s attention. Then, the solution will notify both the patient and the health specialist about the disturbing patterns and suggest scheduling an appointment or test.

Afterword: Reducing the gaps

Overcoming these limitations is essential for a systematic care of chronic patients in the comfort of their homes. However, a thorough rebuild of an EHR is not realistic. Instead of investing substantial time and budget in making the EHR something it is not supposed to be, we recommend creating a holistic solution based on a chronic disease management system (CDMS), which will be connected to the mobile patient application and the EHR. You can find more about CDMS and its benefits in our recent chronic disease management entry.

Revival of the Physician-Patient Relationships via Electronic Technology

Posted on February 9, 2016 I Written By

David Chou is the Vice President / Chief Information & Digital Officer for Children’s Mercy Kansas City. Children’s Mercy is the only free-standing children's hospital between St. Louis and Denver and provide comprehensive care for patients from birth to 21. They are consistently ranked among the leading children's hospitals in the nation and were the first hospital in Missouri or Kansas to earn the prestigious Magnet designation for excellence in patient care from the American Nurses Credentialing Center Prior to Children’s Mercy David held the CIO position at University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state’s only academic health science center. David also served as senior director of IT operations at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and CIO at AHMC Healthcare in California. His work has been recognized by several publications, and he has been interviewed by a number of media outlets. David is also one of the most mentioned CIOs on social media, and is an active member of both CHIME and HIMSS. Subscribe to David's latest CXO Scene posts here and follow me at Twitter Facebook.

One of the latest fads in healthcare is patient-engagement. This is not a new concept at all, but has been practiced in some form for decades. However, with the availability of electronic technology, physicians and healthcare institutions have now embarked on new ways to engage patients. For many years now, there has been a discord in patient-physician relationships. Patients have often felt that healthcare workers never spend adequate time on their cases, rarely allowing them to participate in any decisions and almost never explaining the details about their medical disorders. This bitterness has led many patients to seek alternative healthcare options.

There is now preliminary evidence that use of electronic technology can help improve patient-doctor relationships and also lead to effective treatments and better outcomes.  Patient engagement using electronic technology is also not a new concept. It was first attempted when the Internet was developed in the mid 90s, but failed to gather storm because the technology was relatively new and there was no such thing as androids. The available mobile phones of that time were largely redundant devices that were only used for communication.

Today, almost every healthcare institution and many healthcare workers have web pages that provide educational information to patients. This was the first step in engaging patients. However, with the present availability of mobile devices, the healthcare industry has been able to leap forward. Many clinics now have Apps that give patients access to information, such as: when the doctor will be in the office; how long the wait will be in the ER; possible diagnoses of medical disorders; billing information; and future appointments. Some healthcare practitioners have gone one step further and even offer teleconferencing for patients who are not able to make it to their appointments.

The current strengthening of the patient-physician relationship is further evidenced by the fact that doctors are now encouraging patients to play a greater role in their healthcare and make informed decisions. Shared decision making is now a universal theme in many healthcare institutions. Patient portals can help patients better manage their chronic disorders like diabetes, arthritis, asthma or hypertension. More importantly, this method of engaging patients allows for faster responses from healthcare workers, who now have dedicated staff to answer mobiles phone queries from patients. For example, pharmacists are now able to use mobile technology to help patients better manage their medications, by recording their intake and advising the patients on how to avoid drug interactions.

With the rise of electronic technology, many patients now have most of their medical information, such as medical history and list of medication, stored on their mobile devices which makes it easier to share with healthcare workers when necessary. This dynamic flow of information not only streamlines care, but also fosters continuous and consistent care between the patient and physician. An example of this continuous care may be found in software programs that identify patients in need of particular services, such as annual mammograms, pap smears and chest x-rays. Once these patients are identified, the healthcare workers are able to contact them right away to advise the patient of their specific required medical service, while the software system assists in preventing missed appointments by sending reminders.

Notwithstanding the above, however, patient engagement via use of electronic technology is not without problems. The first and foremost problem is security. Mobile phones routinely get misplaced or stolen and the medical data could easily fall into wrong hands. Secondly, the elderly who make up for the majority of patients in the USA are not usually tech savvy, with very few of them using such mobile devices. Even those who do have a mobile phone are not well versed with Apps or retrieving medical information online.

Additionally, in order for mobile devices to be effective for patient engagement, the healthcare workers need to be efficient in supporting the technology to capitalize on its potential benefits. Even today, one of the most common complaints made by patients is that healthcare providers often times do not return phone calls in a timely manner or even at all. So in order to engage patients, healthcare workers also need to be play an active role. Just sending medical information to a mobile device is not what patients want.

No matter how advanced technology has become, patient engagement via electronic means will never replace the soothing voice or touch of a healthcare provider in the office. It is clear that patient engagement is vital for a successful physician-patient relationship. In fact, there is strong evidence that patients who participate actively in their own care have better medical outcomes and fruitful relationships with their healthcare provider. However, it is important to remember that patient engagement is a two way street. Electronic technology can do wonders for healthcare providers and healthcare institutions, but make no mistake, it can also become a detriment very quickly if not applied and supported adequately. In essence, healthcare providers must remember that current electronic technology can only serve as an assisting tool in managing patients – it cannot act as the healthcare provider itself.

If you’d like to receive future health care C-Level executive posts by David in your inbox, you can subscribe to future Health Care CXO Scene posts here.

Does Telemedicine Require a Higher Degree of Health Literacy?

Posted on December 8, 2015 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Last week’s #HITsm chat was hosted by Joe Lavelle aka @Resultant on the topic of #telemedicine. It was a lively chat with many interesting insights and opinions. Two tweets in particular caught my eye:

and

Both these tweets got me thinking about how patients approach a #telemedicine encounter. Do patients feel they need to be more self-aware about their own health or be more health literate in order to participate in #telemedicine? Basically are telemedicine patients more active in their own care than those that see doctors in-person?

I was really curious to learn more about the patient side of the experience so I reached out to a friend who uses #telemedicine to see a specialist. When I asked my friend (who asked me not to use her name) if she treated telemedicine appointments any different than regular appointments she laughed. It turns out that before telemedicine was made available to her, she did not have easy in-person access to a specialist she needed. This was a function of living in an out-of-the-way rural area that only has a small Urgent Care Center nearby. Here is what she had to say about telemedicine:

After I was diagnosed with my illness, I had to start using telemedicine to see a specialist – otherwise I would have to drive 3+ hrs to the city to see him. I do prepare for my telemedicine visits a little differently than people who see a specialist in-person. I keep my own personal health diary. It’s basically a journal where I jot down how I’m feeling. I note any symptoms I have or any changes in my health. I review my health diary each telemedicine visit. I also bring any test results or other information that I may have. I also write down the questions I want to ask so I don’t forget.

I remarked that this is a lot of preparation for a doctor visit and that she must consider herself really engaged in her care. She didn’t think so: “Colin, if I don’t do these things, I won’t get anything valuable from the doctor. I do the things I do because I HAVE TO. I don’t really have a choice. My specialist doesn’t have a lot of tele-appointment slots so if I don’t get everything I need, I have to wait a long time. ”

It’s only a sample of 1, but I have to say that I consider my friend to be in the actively-involved-in-their-own-health category. In her case geographic circumstance is the primary motivation for her active involvement. I wonder if patient engagement will be an unintended benefit of telemedicine. I am definitely going to be watching to see if this happens. In the meantime I would be very interested in hearing from other people about their telemedicine experience.