The following is a guest blog post by Jamie Verkamp, Chief Speaking Officer at (e)Merge.
Healthcare organizations often see attesting to the Measures included in Meaningful Use Stage 2 as a burdensome checklist which results in a massive resource drain in exchange for inadequate financial compensation. MU Stage 2 Measure 7 is one such oft-maligned requirement for attestation. This Measure requires that online access to records is provided to 50% of patients and that 5% of patients execute the viewing, download, or transmission of their online health information. Organizations should not see Measures regarding patient engagement as intimidating or inconvenient. Instead, these Measures seeking to improve patient engagement should be seen as an opportunity to create more loyal, involved, and empowered patients. The importance of engaging our patients in their own health shows itself in current statistics relating to personal health. According to a study by TeleVox, roughly 83% of Americans don’t follow treatment plans as prescribed by their physicians. Adding to that, 42% of Americans feel they would be more likely to follow their care plan if they received some form of motivation to participate. By giving patients a channel to monitor and participate in their own health, organizations can develop a more educated population capable of producing greater outcomes.
Understanding the reasoning behind the Measures driving patient engagement is the first step; now, we must educate our patient population on the value of logging in and connecting with their information. While the frequency of patients physically visiting their provider’s office is somewhat inconsistent, this is often the most successful way to encourage electronic patient access. Patient facing staff members should be well educated on electronic patient access and be prepared to answer questions as they arise. Physically walking patients through the engagement process of maneuvering their electronic access, or providing video tutorials with simple instructions in the office lobby can increase patient engagement substantially. Consider setting up a station in the waiting room to allow patients to sign up for the service, thus solving the issue of forgotten motivation.
However, organizations must seek to include in their engagement plan the younger and healthier population who may not enter the physical office space outside of unforeseen emergency visits or more often than their annual checkup requires. Looking online to relate with these patients can be beneficial, as this has been found to be where this demographic spends the majority of their time and communication engaging with brands and services. Providing information and education on an organization’s website, Facebook, Twitter, or even YouTube page through video promotion can assist in sparking an interest with this patient population. Many times, those likely to engage in a patient engagement offering remain unaware of its availability due to a lack of communication from the healthcare organization. From the practice standpoint, we must understand our work is not done once the portal is merely completed; rather this is when the real challenge presents itself.
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