Guest Column | June 27, 2017

Beyond The Patient Portal: Drive Patient Engagement Through Data-Driven Point-Of-Care Technology

Mobile Patient Portal

By Joe Guerriero, senior vice president of MDGuidelines at ReedGroup

Despite industry emphasis on patient engagement in recent years and research showing its association with better outcomes and lower costs, engagement continues to be a challenge to many providers. In fact, a 2016 survey of healthcare executives found 54 percent of respondents believed less than a quarter of their patients were highly engaged.

Tactics such as offering patient portals and more convenient care access may positively influence engagement, but that same survey points out 59 percent of respondents felt more time with patients is the most effective engagement-boosting technique. More time with patients is itself a challenge given the workday pressures most physicians and other providers are under. In order to maximize time with patients, providers should consider using data-driven point-of-care tools to help increase patient engagement and promote meaningful treatment discussions and shared decision-making.

Electronic Tools To Enhance Shared Decision-Making

Involving the patient in clinical decisions by sharing information in tandem with the physician’s recommendations is a proven engagement technique. However, worried or curious patients will often arrive in the exam room after doing their own online research. This means part of this shared decision process involves dispelling misinformation or correcting misinterpretations patients have developed researching a condition or injury online.

For example, patients may read a highly anecdotal healthcare blog post or article concerning their condition that leads them to believe their recovery will take weeks or months longer than the likely timeframe for their particular circumstances. In such situations, it is up to the physician or support staff to share concrete, data-based recovery estimates including tangible steps, benchmarks, and objectives that allows them to more fully track and understand their recovery process.

These tables, which should be based on millions of real-world cases, can be paired with predictive analytics that take into account the patient’s age, gender, activity level, and comorbid conditions to calculate a specific recovery time. This type of high-level personalization in treatments is associated with greater patient engagement, while studies have also found information directly from patients’ physicians is trusted more than data found online.

Conversations between physicians and patients around these recovery tables and predictive analytics can be more meaningful than a traditional treatment discussion. If tools are accessible at the point-of-care, these conversations can maximize the physicians’ limited time with the patient without sacrificing its impact.

Clinical Guidelines To Promote More Effective Care

Recovery duration tables and predictive analytics are only half of the engagement puzzle, however. The other half is supplying physicians with evidence-based clinical guidelines to help them create effective treatment plans that lead to faster, safer returns to activity and eliminate the wasted, redundant or unnecessary care that can frustrate patients and providers alike. By reducing unnecessary care, evidence-based clinical guidelines can help organizations reduce their costs and the patients’ out-of-pocket spending, which has been on the rise in recent years. Reducing patients spending can also encourage patient engagement by removing financial barriers to care.

Despite what some may believe, evidence-based clinical guidelines are not a replacement to a physician’s years of training or experience, nor will they interfere with the physician-patient relationship. Rather, these guidelines help support physician decisions, as well as help them stay abreast of quality evidence that may influence their care decisions. The use of guidelines provides physicians with even more tangible, proven recovery data they can share with patients at the point-of-care to further engage them in their treatment and recovery.

When used in conjunction with the recovery duration tables, they help patients visualize their return-to-activity goals, paired with a scientifically validated treatment plan, both of which can offer a sense of greater health confidence that often results in higher engagement levels.

Two Halves For The Whole Patient

Similar to implementing a new patient portal or other new technology solutions, the selection of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and recovery duration tables must be carefully conducted. Proper guidelines will be based on a synthesis of the entire body of evidence applicable to a given condition. That data must then be subjected to a rigorous multi-stage, blinded process to ensure maximum accuracy, objectivity, and reliability.

If available electronically, the guidelines and duration estimates can be made accessible to patients through a patient portal to further encourage engagement. In conjunction with providers’ skills and experience, recovery duration tables and evidence-based clinical guidelines are the two halves that promote faster recoveries and stronger engagement for the whole patient.