- As healthcare organizations turn to patient engagement technologies to enhance care, they should ensure strong provider buy-in and education, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
The research team found that health IT implementation may have a positive effect on patient engagement, but in some cases has faced barriers to success.
“Health care organizations across the United States have enhanced their HIT systems in an effort to engage the patient. Despite the supposed improvement in patient outcomes with these patient engagement technology systems, most systems are not reaching their full potential,” the researchers explained.
“A major barrier to IT adoption is user acceptance; the technology acceptance model (TAM) states that user acceptance is highly influenced by the perceived usefulness of the system.”
Healthcare organizations should first focus on building nurse buy-in considering the important role these clinicians play in the patient experience. Nurses are at the forefront of patient interactions, the researchers said, and are therefore the ideal candidates to help implement new technologies with the patient.
To assess nurse perceptions of patient engagement technology, the research team interviewed 38 nurses from two California-based hospitals.
For the purposes of this study, patient engagement technology included patient portals, messaging tools, medication and symptom management tools, and distraction therapy tools such as spiritual content, video, music, white noise, or relaxation technique devices.
Overall, qualitative interviews showed that strong implementation strategies can improve patient engagement technology buy-in from nurses.
“Nurses must learn how to incorporate new technologies into their clinical practice to optimize patient engagement,” the researchers said. “Comprehensive in-service training might be considered by some as cost prohibitive, but without the proper preparation the nurses would not be exposed to the full capabilities of the [patient engagement] system.”
Technology training should center not only on the logistical navigation of these tools, but also on which issues to use these tools. For example, patients struggling with anxiety may benefit from a distraction therapy, and education technologies may be useful for discharge.
Additionally, it is important for healthcare organizations to fully follow through on patient engagement technology implementation. They must test usability and effectiveness following implementation, the researchers said, and include these tools as a required part of nursing workflows.
The interviews also revealed ways in which patient engagement technology can enhance care delivery, such as improving nursing workflows.
For example, by using distraction therapy, nurses can reduce patient anxiety, nurse call button and pain medication use. This could open nurses’ schedules by reducing patient emotional support needs.
Furthermore, education and engagement materials can yield more meaningful conversations between nurses and patients.
“One particular nurse stated that she incorporated an introduction of the system as part of her initial patient assessment; during this assessment, she encouraged her patients to review medications and disease information specific to them as a starting ground for patient teaching,” the researchers reported.
“This nurse reported that after watching the videos, the communication was enhanced because patients had preliminary baseline teaching, which allowed for more interactive communication.”
Patient engagement technology can also lead to long-term engagement.
“The adoption, use, and development of a strategy for the patients to remain engaged when their care is transitioned to the community are essential,” the researchers stated. “For example, a patient may be more apt to use a personal health record/patient portal at home if they can become comfortable with these systems in the acute care setting.”
Going forward, it will be important for healthcare organizations to ensure they properly support nurses in adopting patient engagement technologies. Considering the current emphasis on patient engagement in healthcare and technology’s ability to support it, healthcare professionals should consider all strategies to ensure maximum growth.