If you think that health IT and mHealth are permeating all aspects of healthcare, including patient engagement, you’d be right.
As the healthcare industry continues to enter into the technological world, providers are discovering new strategies to enhance their clinical workflows, including boosting patient engagement.
By taking advantage of telehealth technologies, mHealth apps, and patient portal technology, providers can keep their patients fully engaged all while staying current on the technology boom.
Reach the patient remotely with telehealth
One of the primary benefits of telehealth is the fact that it enables providers to reach otherwise unreachable patients. When a city-based physician can offer a full office visit to a patient in a remote, rural location, she offers him the chance to be more involved in his care.
According to Reena Pande, MD, chief medical officer at Abilto and cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, telehealth is all about meeting patients where it is easiest for them.
“With respect to engagement, I think the task for us as a healthcare system is really to think about what barriers exist for patients to get the type of care they need and how to remove those barriers,” Pande said in an interview with mHealthIntelligence.com.
“I do strongly believe that making it simple for a patient and a provider to engage with one another remotely – by telephone or video – and removing the barriers is a key factor to improving patient engagement. It is beneficial to simplify access to that type of care and reach a provider at a time that patients need to.”
Telehealth technology also has the capacity to engage patients at any time of day. This adds to the convenience factor because patients can schedule their appointments around their work or family commitments without having to adhere to the schedule of a doctor’s office.
Engage the patient with mHealth apps
mHealth apps are beneficial in keeping patients engaged outside of the point of care through different health tracking tools. These apps can be used for more purposes than just engaging the patient remotely in follow-up care by helping them maintain their overall wellness.
For example, fitness apps are widely popular and are helping patients stay engaged in their overall physical wellness. By utilizing user-friendly platforms and offering capabilities right on a patient’s smartphone, these apps are permeating patient life.
However, providers need to be wary of which mHealth apps they suggest to their patients. Studies show that not all mHealth apps are created equal.
A research team led by Karandeep Singh and David Bates, MD, found that very few mHealth apps are actually effective.
In order to be effective, the team explained, apps need to embrace various qualities including providing education, reminding or alerting users, recording and tracking health information, displaying and summarizing health information, providing guidance based on user activity, enabling communications with providers and family members, providing support through social networks, and supporting behavior change in rewards (such as a points system).
However, the study shows that there are some effective apps out on the market. By researching different products based on the above parameters, providers can find useful mHealth apps that can make a difference in aiding and engaging their patients.
Provide the patient with health data access
Health data access is one of the biggest key terms in the patient engagement discussion, with several professionals saying it’s important for patients to understand their health in order for them to engage in it.
In a recent patient engagement toolkit published by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), experts explained that health data access is a patient’s first step in becoming engaged.
“Access to personal health information is crucial for patients to transition from a passive recipient to a driver in the new patient-centric healthcare delivery paradigm,” the toolkit said. “The ability to access both personal healthcare information and educational research on medical conditions is a key driver of self-activation.”
Patient health data access can be accomplished using mHealth tools, particularly through patient portals that are compatible with computers and different mobile devices, as well as personal health records, which allow patients to aggregate their own health data.
Many healthcare providers are jumping on the mHealth and patient portal bandwagon. In a 2015 survey from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) about mHealth and patient portals, researchers found that 73 percent of healthcare organizations are using some kind of remote app or website to host a patient portal. This number is promising, but still holds some room for more patients to utilize the technology.
Going forward, providers will need to encourage their patients to register for the portal by showing their patients the immediate benefits the technology has to them. Providers can further improve patient engagement by making this point regarding all patient engagement technologies.