Portals not delivering on patient engagement

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 - Patient Portal

Despite the potential for patient portals to increase patient engagement and, in turn, improve healthcare outcomes and lower costs, the online tools have not yet delivered, according to a study from HIMSS Analytics.

The online survey of executives from 114 healthcare organizations found that the top drivers for patient engagement are to enhance and improve the health of the community (77 percent), the quest to build brand loyalty for patients (77 percent), and meeting Meaningful Use requirements (60 percent).

Respondents said they need next-generation portals with functionality that will enable patients to become partners in their own care. Those functions they seek include e-visits (80 percent), interoperability across multiple providers (70 percent), health evaluation and coaching (70 percent) and tele-visits (50 percent).

About two-thirds of survey respondents are using portals provided by their EHR vendors.

According to the survey: 71 percent of respondents who have an engagement strategy are using portal technology to meet current minimum Meaningful Use requirements for functionality and data sharing from a single source; 54 percent are using portals that offer a combination of patient services, technology and content; and 51 percent are using portals as a configurable, interoperable information exchange platform for data sharing from multiple sources.

“Unfortunately, a patient portal based on a single EHR is not enough to move patient engagement forward,” said Joe DeSantis, vice president at InterSystems, which sponsored the survey. “Engagement needs to span the entire care continuum. The short-term focus on Meaningful Use has often been at the expense of long-term strategic goals.”

The survey also found that patient engagement initiatives often lack definitive leadership. Respondents said multi-departmental/multi-role committees are the most common owners of an organization’s patient engagement strategy (26 percent), followed by chief marketing officers (15 percent), chief information officers (10 percent) and CEOs (8 percent).

“These strategy owners might not have the financial wherewithal to effectively move initiatives forward,” according to HIMSS Analytics and InterSystems. “The roadblock: Spending on patient engagement is spread across organizations—with information technology typically buying the tools, ambulatory departments paying for the costs for program administration, and marketing shelling out the money for promotions, positioning patient engagement as a brand loyalty strategy.”