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Time, Personnel Issues Top Patient Engagement Strategy Barriers

Technology will emerge as a top plan for overcoming patient engagement strategy barriers.

Time constraints are major patient engagement strategy barriers.

Source: Thinkstock

- Time is a significant patient engagement strategy barrier for 63 percent of healthcare organizations, according to a recent NEJM Catalyst survey.

The survey of 555 healthcare executives, clinical leaders, and clinicians, targeted barriers to integrating patient centricity into the care encounter.

Sixty-three percent of survey participants said that healthcare team time constraints limited patient engagement efforts, followed by patient adherence (54 percent), provider adoption (52 percent), and costs (49 percent).

Time constraints, integration concerns, and issues surrounding reimbursement are all daunting problems, Optima Health Medical Director Bertrand Ross, MD, FACC, FACP, said in the NEJM report.

“Doctors to some degree worry the changes will be too disruptive,” Ross explained. “How will physicians blend patient engagement into their [care delivery] workflow?”

Providers do not always view the effort and time constraints associated with meaningful patient engagement as worth their trouble, especially with murky reimbursements for patient-centered care.

The continued shift toward value-based reimbursement structures may help alleviate this problem, ACMC Health Medical Director of Quality and Innovation Kathryn Duevel, MD, MS, said in the NEJM report.

“As we transition to a value-based system, the value of patient engagement starts to pay off and organizations with fewer resources can make the financial equation necessary to fund patient engagement work,” Duevel explained.

Healthcare organizations are also increasingly recognizing the benefits to patient engagement, the survey showed. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said patient engagement has a positive effect on clinical quality, while 40 percent agreed that engagement is good for healthcare revenue cycle and reduces costs.

Provided these benefits and value-based care requirements, healthcare organizations will press forward in their patient engagement efforts by putting patients in the driver’s seat.

Ninety-one percent of survey respondents said that patients should be instrumental in patient engagement strategies and overhauls. Although patients are not always knowledgeable about the technical and diagnostic aspects of healthcare, they are integral to structuring patient-centered care.

Sixty-three percent of respondents also agreed that nurses are vital to designing patient engagement activities, followed by physicians (58 percent), and patient family and friends (41 percent).

Healthcare experts predict that patient engagement will take a more technological turn going forward, however. Although care teams devoted to complex chronic care patients are the backbone of engagement for 63 percent of organizations, technology is emerging as a secondary force.

Forty-four percent of respondents leverage mHealth, patient portals, telehealth, or some other patient engagement technology. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said technology is at least somewhat effective in supporting patient engagement.

Technology will be especially beneficial due to the personnel, time constraint, and cost concerns reported in the survey, some respondents suggested.

“Organizations must learn to better leverage patient engagement technology and social networks,” one survey respondent said. “The health care team approach is personnel-heavy, making it costly to sustain. By using technology tools and social networks, that cost can be reduced while improving quality of care.”

Technology is more efficient than care teams and requires less personnel and time, meaning patient portals and mHealth tools will help organizations overcome their current barriers to strong patient engagement, respondents indicated.

Additionally, respondents reported that more organizations will likely start utilizing health technology at a greater frequency.

“Most organizations have yet to use these approaches to a high degree,” another respondent said. “We expect that as they embrace these approaches, the task of fostering patient engagement will be better shared among health care teams, family and friends, and technology.”

Clinicians and healthcare leaders may overcome time constraint issues and other barriers to meaningful patient engagement by delegating various aspects of the patient engagement agenda to both technology and other members of the care team, the survey concluded.