Patient Data Access News

Patient-Generated Health Data Discussions Increase Engagement

Although 66 percent of patients say patient-generated health data makes them feel more engaged in care, there are still some major use barriers.


Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

-  Despite strong beliefs that patient-generated health data (PGHD) helps improve patient engagement, both patients and providers cite barriers to integrating the data into office visits, according to a survey presented at this year’s HIMSS conference.

The data, collected by WebMD and Medscape, shows that patients and providers alike must focus on the benefits of PGHD in order to increase motivation to collect the data and overcome use barriers.

Thirty-one percent of patients reported that when PGHD is a part of their clinical encounters, they feel much more engaged, and 35 percent say they feel somewhat more engaged. Only three percent of patients said they felt somewhat or much less engaged when they discussed PGHD with their providers.

Clinicians saw similar increases in patient engagement when discussing patient-generated health data. A quarter of clinicians said their patients were much more engaged when discussing PGHD, and 40 percent said they were somewhat more engaged. Only five percent of clinicians said patients were somewhat or much less engaged when discussing PGHD.

Despite these findings, PGHD is not yet widely used. Fewer than 40 percent of patients reported that they had offered PGHD to their clinicians unsolicited. Just under a third of patients said it’s too overwhelming for sick patients to collect PGHD on their own (31 percent), that it’s too cumbersome to manage health record keeping (30 percent), or that it’s too time consuming (30 percent).

Most PGHD still comes in the form of handwritten documents (i.e. patient health diaries, questionnaires, and handwritten medication or symptom lists).  The low rate of PGHD contribution could be due to complicated electronic barriers that prevent consumers from collecting and sharing their data easily. Thirty-three percent of patients said patient portals – the technology onto which most patients would upload their PGHD – are too difficult to use.

But when providers do ask for patients to contribute patient-generated health data, patients supply it.

Only seven percent of patients said they withheld PGHD from providers who requested the data. Forty-eight percent of those patients said they withheld the data because they forgot to collect it. Other popular reasons for withholding PGHD were not having time to collect the data or thinking it was optional.

However, due to perceived use barriers, clinicians do not always ask patients to contribute their patient-generated health data. According to the survey, providers think PGHD creates data overload and that they usually lack relevant data. Providers are also often deterred by patient apprehensions and are concerned that the patient does not want to engage in that record keeping or does not believe it improves their healthcare.

In general, providers think their patients are only moderately motivated to collect and supply patient-generated health data. On a scale of one to five, providers rated patient motivation a 2.95. Office-based clinicians reported a slightly higher patient motivation level of 3.17.

Despite these PGHD shortcomings, both patients and providers expressed that more can be done to increase data use. Ninety percent of providers somewhat or strongly agree that making it clear how PGHD will be used can help motivate patients to collect and submit data.

Patients feel the same, with 61 percent of patients strongly agreeing and 30 percent somewhat agreeing. Ninety-seven percent of patients also strongly or somewhat agree that when PGHD is used to develop their care plans, they are more likely to contribute data.

In order to facilitate better PGHD use, healthcare providers will need to focus on those two main motivators. Additionally, they will need to understand how patients perceive the benefits of PGHD, such as improving patient-provider communications, empowerment, and overall engagement levels.

While there are still some logistical barriers to collecting and submitting PGHD – it is time consuming or confusing – patients and providers alike still see the benefits as outweighing the disadvantages. By focusing on those benefits, providers can determine ways to increase patient motivation to use PGHD, helping to enhance the overall patient experience.


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