Health IT Helping to Improve Patient Engagement

The benefits of health IT (information technology) are many: Electronic Health Records (EHR) can be updated and accessed for more easily than paper copies. Patients are more engaged and informed, while their needs can be met more accurately and quickly. Overall, health IT makes the delivery of healthcare more effective.

However, despite these pluses, several issues populate health IT’s minus column: confusing enrollment processes, awkward interfaces, and questions or privacy and security that spur reluctance from some patients, physicians and staff members.

The Patient Engagement Playbook is designed to combat and ideally conquer these barriers.

The playbook was put together by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In a blog on the website, ONC Chief Medical Officer Thomas A. Mason, M.D., described the playbook as “an online tool for doctors, nurses, other clinicians, practice staff, hospital administrators and others who wish to leverage health IT to actively engage patients in their health and care.”

Mason also explained the rationale behind the “playbook” description.

“Playbooks aren’t just static instruction manuals — they’re constantly-evolving sets of strategies and approaches,” Mason wrote. “Successful coaches update their playbooks regularly, and each iteration reflects new, innovative solutions to shifting circumstances.”

Aimed primarily at healthcare providers, the first phase of the playbook was released in June and consists of four chapters explaining how to:

  • Facilitate easy enrollment
  • Activate features that meet patient needs
  • Allow caregiver proxy access
  • Integrate patient-generated health data.

Each chapter consists of tactics to overcome barriers to the successful implementation of health IT.

For example, Chapter 1 offers these steps to encourage patients to enroll in health IT programs through EHR patient portals:

  • Provide simple, secure portal signup
  • Develop an automatic enrollment policy
  • Register patients in the office
  • Market and educate effectively.

Chapter 2 addresses features designed to meet the needs of patients:

  • Allow online booking and prescription refills
  • Set up secure information sharing
  • Share notes.

Chapter 3 concerns proxy access to EHR, explaining situations in which it is or isn’t appropriate, or legal, for someone other than the patient to have access to her or his health records.

Chapter 4 contains tips for gathering patient-generated health data, including family health histories.

Mason stressed that “the Playbook is an evolving collection of strategies and new approaches for improving the patient experience,” and that input from providers was welcomed in order “to help us update and improve the content.

The Patient Engagement Playbook will be part of a comprehensive health IT playbook to be made available later this year, Mason wrote.


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