Do you know that 82% of patients using a patient portal believe they are receiving better care? The explosion of health portals and wearables in recent years has given patients the power to actively engage in their care.
These technologies benefit caregivers as well, providing them with proxy access to see what is happening with the care their family member is receiving. It also streamlines communication with providers, which promotes effective transitions of care. When transitions of care break down, it can result in higher readmissions, medical errors, increased ED visits, and a poor patient and family experience. Engaging patients with these tools reminds them about their appointments and promotes communication between clinicians and their patients.
How exactly do we use portal technology to keep our patients healthy? When we’re talking about our entire population, there are three types of patients we need to address; health promotion patients, at-risk patients, and chronic disease patients. All three of these come with their own challenges and we have different strategies to address each one.
Health Promotion Patients
Making up 50-60% of all patients, health promotion patients tend to be more active, have no chronic illnesses, and show no signs of being at risk for chronic conditions or participating in risky behavior such as smoking. The goal with this group of patients is to keep them healthy.
Clinicians can encourage these patients to keep up the good work by utilizing wearable fitness trackers and using their smartphones to log calories. These devices can then connect back to the patient portal, and push that information to your EHR. This provides clinicians with more data to help evaluate how the patient is doing. Soon, the patient portal that MEDITECH offers will be available in the app store for iOS and Android, making it easy for you to provide a portal in your patient’s pocket that will help you meet consumer expectations.
Patients that have some combination of risk factors, such as obesity, alcoholism, and smokers, as well as having family history of a disease, are considered at-risk patients.
How do you manage these patients and help them from developing a chronic condition? In addition to the portal, where patients can actively participate in their care, patients in this category need to be monitored by a care provider. Using MEDITECH's Web Ambulatory solution, care providers can monitor changes in a patient’s condition with patient registries.
For example, let’s say you have a diabetic patient who you are monitoring. Maybe they miss a visit, or maybe you notice their monitored measurements are elevated. This can trigger a care team member to contact the patient to review medications, diet adherence, and gather additional information. Clinicians can then evaluate if the patient needs a visit or a medication adjustment, and send a note or a visit time back to the patient’s portal.
After the visit, the clinician can continue to push external education materials to the patient to keep them on track.
Though they may be reluctant, it is vital for these patients to work with caregivers to develop long-term health plans. Regular monitoring, including at home, and clinical follow-ups are important, so that your patient doesn’t move into the third category.
Chronic Disease Patients
Chronic diseases are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths each year, and treating people with chronic diseases accounts for 86% of our nation’s health care costs. That is a daunting statistic. And not all of these patients stay compliant to their prescribed preventative treatment. This category of patients have one or more active chronic diseases that needs significant intervention (COPD, CHF, diabetes, etc).
The real goal for this group is to maximize the quality and length of life. These patients often require active case management with an assigned care coordinator. Continuous monitoring and targeted plans for these patients can make all the difference. Using the example of a CHF patient, a scale and blood pressure cuffs could be issued to the patient. Based on what the patient is tracking (i.e weight), if anything is outside the normal ranges defined by the care provider, notifications are pushed to the care manager. They can then communicate with the patient, evaluate if they need an appointment, or adjust medications based on the data they receive. With technology making monitoring easier every day, chronic disease sufferers now have a caregiver helping them manage their disease, and giving them any additional education or help they may need.
You can also push information out to these patients about special programs and support services that you offer. Is your hospital affiliated with a Meals on Wheels program? Do you offer a transportation system for appointments? Specific messaging about additional support and services you offer not only helps improve your patients' health, it increases their loyalty and peace of mind when it comes to selecting and keeping a health care provider.
Because so much that impacts health and wellness takes place outside the hospital and office environment, continuous patient engagement is one of the best weapons you have in the fight to keep patients healthy and encourage them to be active participants in their healthcare.
With regular communication, education, and encouragement, patient portal and telehealth technologies can empower your patients to be active members of their care team and improve their lives. Engaged patients are more loyal consumers, and will be more likely to recommend you and become ambassadors for the care you provide.