Online patient engagement tools such as patient portals play a significant role in increasing patient engagement in chronic disease management and preventative care, according to researchers from Kaiser Permanente of Southern California.
Researchers from KPSC conducted a study after implementing the Online Personal Action Plan (oPAP). The oPAP is an extension patient engagement tool to their online patient portal, and helps patients get more information regarding disease prevention, health promotion, and care gaps, closing any disparities in preventative care.
“Even with the efforts of healthcare providers and staff, patients often need help accomplishing their efforts to maintain their health outside the medical office setting, and gaps in care are common,” the research team, led by Shayna L. Henry, PhD, explained.
After examining care gap closure rates between oPAP users and non-users between December 2014 and March 2015, the researchers found that online patient engagement tools like the oPAP can play a significant role in improving the delivery of preventative care and chronic disease management.
By the end of the data collection period, 40 percent of the 838,638 patients included in the study had registered with the oPAP and received at least one email alert. These alerts were used to notify patients that there was a chronic disease management concern, providing them with a preventative action plan.
Those email notifications had a positive effect across a wide array of preventative measures. oPAP users were nine percent more likely to close the mammogram care gap than non-users, and 12 percent more likely to complete routine HbA1c testing than non-users. Additionally, they were six percent more likely to receive a Pap smear than non-users, and nine percent more likely to receive a colorectal cancer screening than non-users.
“In the present sample, oPAP users were more likely than non-registered members to receive screening tests for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers and more likely to complete their HbA1c testing,” the report explained.
Despite the success with preventative screenings, oPAP non-users were no less likely to receive a vaccination than oPAP users.
This study is significant due to the impact it has on chronic disease and population health management. Although it has been maintained throughout the industry that better patient engagement increases overall health, it has been difficult for providers to get through to their patients.
With between 20 and 80 percent of adult patients going without vaccines or preventative care screenings, it is important that healthcare professionals are able to adopt effective patient engagement strategies.
“Making sure that patients and health plan members get the screening and monitoring services they need is crucial in providing care and ensuring that health and quality of life are maintained,” the research team noted. “However, increasing engagement in these primary and secondary prevention efforts can be difficult and costly.”
These results show hope for patient engagement and the positive effects it can have on chronic disease and population health management. Although the oPAP, and many other patient-facing online tools, have yet to reach ubiquitous adoption across patient populations, their proven effectiveness may convince some providers to encourage their patients to register for them.
“[T]he success of the oPAP at promoting care gap closure is encouraging for the development of patient-enabled health management tools both within KP and other health systems, and for the continued use and expansion of the oPAP system,” the research team explained.
Going forward, the researchers maintain that the oPAP may serve as a feasible patient engagement model to help improve chronic disease management by allowing patients to have the power to manage their own healthcare.
“[T]he results of the present study indicate that the oPAP has considerable potential to be a model for cost- and resource-effective patient engagement in health maintenance and disease prevention,” the researchers concluded. “Importantly, once created, the oPAP allows for patient self-management, creating a minimal-cost intervention to maintain its operation.”