- Patient engagement is on the rise as a result of a significant increase in patient portal availability and adoption, according to a survey from CDW Healthcare.
The survey of 200 chronic care patients and 200 providers shows that patients are more engaged in their health this year than in the previous year. Seventy percent of patients reported that they are engaged in their care this year while 57 percent reported the same in last year’s survey.
This increase in patient engagement comes alongside an increase in patient portal use. Ninety-eight percent of patients said they have patient portal access, and 74 percent said they’ve enrolled on it. This is up from the 2016 survey where 45 percent of patients said they had used the portal.
“One of the most surprising things for us was 98 percent of patients say that they can access the portal, which is such a high increase,” said Nancy Ragont, Senior Manager of Customer Insights at CDW Healthcare.
“Patient portals are at the cusp of being, according to other reports, as well. The fact that 98 percent of folks say that they use it shows how quickly technology is making an impact on healthcare.”
According to survey administrators, this shows that providers are doing a better job of promoting the portal.
“That means providers did a great job in marketing that portal to patients and making them aware of how to use it,” Ragont explained. “We’re definitely seeing more engagement because of that. Patients are being empowered through this portal to get the 360 degree view of themselves.”
Patient engagement improvements have been a two-way street, according to the survey. While patients are taking the initiative to use health IT to become more activated in their care, providers are also working to drive patient engagement.
Seventy-one percent of provider respondents said patient engagement is a top priority at their practice, up from 60 percent in 2016. Eighty percent of providers are working to make personal health records easier to access, also an improvement from last year.
“It’s happening on both sides, and that’s a great thing,” Ragnont said.
“The consumer is in the driver’s seat now as far as their health, and they are able to engage on their own terms,” she explained. “And 71 percent of providers saying improving patient engagement is a top priority for their practices is an improvement from 67 percent in 2016.”
Provider patient engagement efforts are the results of the changing healthcare landscape where the patient is at the center and Medicare reimburses for better engagement efforts, the survey shows.
Patient engagement motivators include goals to improve the overall patient experience (67 percent), emerging patient engagement technologies (56 percent), and meaningful use requirements (55 percent), providers said.
Patients are picking up on their providers’ efforts, with 95 percent recognizing at least one benefit of patient engagement. Seventy-percent of patients said portal access has increased their knowledge of their health, and 60 percent reported that the technology makes healthcare more timely and convenient.
But while the survey shows that the patient portal reigns supreme in driving patient engagement (81 percent of providers credit engagement improvements to portal access), patients are starting to engage with other forms of health IT, as well.
Eighty-three percent of patients like to use mobile apps, 77 percent use secure text messaging, and 75 percent are comfortable using online chats with their providers.
According to Ragont, this is likely because patients are familiar with these kinds of technologies and use them in their everyday lives.
“Technology is such a wonderful thing because it allows us to engage on our own terms,” Ragont said. “The survey shows that the ways patients are most comfortable interacting are the same ways that we already interact with each other. This is about becoming comfortable texting your doctor back and forth, for example. I think as patients feel more comfortable doing that, communication only gets better.”
However, patient engagement is not yet perfect. Only 29 percent of patients said they would give their providers an A in patient engagement, and 89 percent still would like easier access to their health data. As mentioned above, only 9 percent of patients reported being comfortable with telemedicine, despite industry claims for it to improve convenient care access.
According to provider respondents, clinicians need to overcome these challenges by meeting patients where they are. Providers should offer engagement opportunities using the technology that patients are comfortable with, such as secure texting or mHealth apps.
The same goes for patient portals, provider respondents said. Healthcare organizations should determine which patient portal features, such as electronic prescription refills or online appointment scheduling, would be most beneficial to a specific patient population.
Additionally, as healthcare organizations continue to increase patient engagement, they will need to employ the staff necessary to carry out these initiatives. For example, offering more communication opportunities will be moot if there is not the needed personnel to respond to patient messaging.
Healthcare organizations and providers will need to continue to address their patient engagement efforts. The industry is increasingly shifting toward value-based care models, and policies such as meaningful use and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System require providers to leverage health IT to engage their patients.
With this growth as well as persistent efforts from providers, healthcare organizations can meet these industry shifts and continue to put the patient at the center of care.