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Patient, Provider Views of Patient Engagement Technology Differ

While providers and vendors focus on patient portals, patients are looking from more holistic options for patient engagement technology, according to a KLAS report.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Patients, providers, and technology vendors are not on the same page when it comes to patient engagement strategies and technologies, according to a report from KLAS released at this year’s HIMSS conference.

The report, obtained via email, outlined the insights from healthcare providers, technology vendors, and patients. Those insights built upon findings from 2015, 2016, and 2017 and highlighted discrepancies between each of those healthcare stakeholders.

“Patient engagement is as old as medicine, but the use of information technology to engage patients is just taking shape,” KLAS wrote in the report. “Broad visions and experimentation abound, but there is a lack of consensus regarding end goals, and pathways are still being cleared.”

On the provider side, KLAS found that most patient engagement efforts center on the patient portal and other regulatory requirements. In 2015, most providers adopted patient engagement technology and strategies that were focused on meeting meaningful use, MIPS, and achieving high CAHPS scores, each of which informs organizational reimbursement.

Only 10 to 15 percent of organizations were leveraging proactive patient engagement efforts that drove the patient journey toward wellness.

In 2016, only 23 percent of organizations identified themselves as “strategic” with their patient engagement investments. The remaining 77 percent implemented patient engagement tools on a departmental, ad hoc basis. Most of these investments centered on regulatory requirements for offering patient access to health data via the patient portal.

Currently, 30 percent of organizations are focused on the compliance side of patient engagement. Thirty-eight percent are service-oriented, meaning organizations are working to create a better patient experience. These efforts are also largely reactive and encounter-focused.

Seven percent of organizations are using patient engagement initiatives to support their businesses, primarily through proactive patient outreach systems. The end goal is to create patient acquisition and retention.

Fifteen percent of patient engagement strategies center on chronic care management and 10 percent focus on proactive patient wellness systems.

On the vendor side, most companies are focusing on the patient portal to meet the demands of the 94 percent of provider organizations that reportedly offer patient access to the tool. As a result, competition between enterprise and best-of-breed solutions has emerged.

“Research shows that EMR vendors are gaining ground: of the nine vendors mentioned as meeting needs across patient engagement technology, six were EMR vendors,” the report noted.

This is likely because healthcare organizations want a patient portal that integrates easily with the EHR.

However, some best-of-breed vendors are emerging as top-of-mind for provider organizations. CipherHealth, Emmi, and GetWellNetwork all offer patient portal systems that are ranked higher for practice patient engagement, KLAS showed.

For patients, the report noted that a deeper patient-provider relationship that is focused on patient wellness will prevail.

“In 2017, KLAS polled providers to determine the impact of HIT on overall patient relationships,” the report explained. “Customers of the most comprehensive patient engagement vendors suggest some headway is being made towards proactive care, with almost two-thirds using their vendor to help chronic care patients.”

Those trends are becoming apparent in patient views of patient engagement technology.

“Deeper engagement is behind a major trend in vendor selection,” the report continued. “Rather than passively waiting for patients to engage, providers are finding value in solutions that take healthcare directly to patients.”

Patient outreach tools are taking center stage over one-off solutions such as the patient portal. Providers need to look at outreach communication and education tools that deliver patient-facing functions right to the patients’ smartphones. This more proactive approach will overcome patient compliance barriers such as limited patient portal adoption and use.

Going forward, healthcare professionals will also need to reconcile differences in patient engagement efforts across providers, vendors, and patients. Each stakeholder has a different expectation for patient engagement technology that is hindering uptake.

“Extreme diversity in goals, strategies, technologies, and even terminology has exposed the need for a common language and framework that can push the industry forward in a more coordinated, comprehensive, and cooperative manner,” KLAS concluded.

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