Tag Archives: patient engagement

Patient Engagement & Value Based Care: Key Concepts in the Healthcare Reimbursement Conundrum

Since the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched the electronic health record (EHR) incentive program, Meaningful Use (MU), in 2011, the term patient engagement has become nearly ubiquitous in US healthcare policy discussions. It is now the driving concept behind CMS’s proposed financial reimbursement paradigm shift that focuses on a move from fee for service care to value based care.

Despite the emphasis that has been placed on the term “patient engagement” and its widespread use among health IT vendors in their marketing campaigns, many healthcare providers still have a vague concept of what patient engagement is and many doubt if it’s genuinely beneficial. (more…)

Why Telemedicine Has Failed

telemedicine consult

Telemedicine, the use of technology for remote patient monitoring and medical consultations, is experiencing growing pains in the U.S. It’s a logical response to ballooning healthcare expenditures and an ever-increasing physician availability shortage. Integrated with patient portals, patient engagement mobile apps, remote patient monitoring software and health tracking apps, telemedicine is also part of a growing market for patient engagement solutions.

However, going virtual with healthcare has not been straightforward, and has taken longer than anyone would have expected. For telemedicine to reach its potential, we need to address lags in adoption, privacy concerns, and health policy barriers.

Adoption: Generating Physician Buy-In

There are many private companies that specialize in telemedicine, such as virtual care applications or 24-hour “ask a doctor” services. The other option is a physician who has regular appointments also checking in with patients remotely via a telemedicine portal or a similar application. In this case, many physicians don’t want to change how they do medicine. For a successful transition to a hybrid format, first and foremost, the reimbursement must be there. Reasonable reimbursement for telemedicine is still mostly limited to certain states and is simply not enticing enough to drive telemedicine. A perfect example of this would be the use of chronic care management solutions for CPT code 99490 – which has seen unexpectedly low utilization. The evidence that telemedicine and patient engagement improves outcomes is still lacking as well.

Adoption: Developing Accessible Patient Engagement Solutions

Patients with chronic conditions that require frequent check-ins has a tremendous amount of potential to benefit from telemedicine. Older and typically less tech-savvy seniors are now surprisingly proficient with technology. For example, it may be hard for them to connect or use remote patient monitoring devices between office visits. On-screen interaction may not be easy for those with limited vision. This makes it difficult to engage patients. These obstacles can be overcome with accessible technologies, and health IT professionals should focus on this.

Privacy: HIPAA Compliant Remote Patient Monitoring and Consultation

In telemedicine, personal health information is sent in several ways, including text, audio, video, images, and real-time remote patient data from sensors. This worries healthcare providers, who need to comply with HIPAA privacy rules. While the tools we use daily may not meet standards (video, email, SMS) there are specialized platforms out there that do, the Bridge Patient Portal platform being one of them. These are essential to best practices in telemedicine.

Policy: Taking Advantage of in Interstate Licensing

States have different requirements about where a physician needs to be licensed to provide telemedicine services: In some cases, it’s the state where the practice is located. In others, it’s the state where the patient is located. Over twenty-six states have now introduced or enacted Interstate Medical Licensure Compact legislation, which will make it easier for physicians to practice in several states. As more states join, medical practices may need to be guided on how to get their healthcare teams licensed.

Policy: Addressing Different Reimbursement Rules Across States

Reimbursement is another area of inconsistency: Rules about which telemedicine services need to be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance vary from state to state. This is being considered at the federal level. In the meantime, healthcare providers need easy access to centralized, up-to-date information on relevant policies.

By harnessing our society’s tech habits to engage patients and help physicians do their jobs better, telemedicine has lots of potential. At this stage, it faces roadblocks like privacy concerns and policy red tape. It’s important to equip healthcare providers with resources for navigating these issues. On the product end, we need to develop technologies that make telemedicine accessible and effective for both physicians and patients.

Utilizing HIPAA Compliant Patient Surveys to Optimize Patient Engagement and Increase Effectiveness of Post Visit Communication

Having a post-visit communication plan can significantly improve patient outcomes by reducing the number of  emergency visits, decreasing the hospital re-admission rate, and improving chronic disease management.  Utilizing HIPAA compliant patient surveys is an excellent way for providers to gather post-visit information that enables them to monitor patient well being, verify medication adherence, and review care plan compliance, all of which improves patient satisfaction and help patients maintain good health.

Despite the importance of follow-up communication, few healthcare organizations have a robust post-visit communication plan in place.

A recent survey of 50 health professional and healthcare administrators conducted by Bridge Patient Portal, demonstrated that only 30% of organizations have an adequate post-visit communication plan in place.

study - patient engagement strategy

The survey also examined the areas of post-visit communication that pose the greatest challenges for healthcare organizations.

Post-Visit Patient Communication Challenges

Post-Visit Communication and Patient Engagement Goals

For survey respondents whose organizations do have a patient engagement strategy, when asked which goals they were trying to accomplish, the majority (59 percent) said continuity of care for better health.

patient engagement strategy goals

Barriers to Implementing Post Visit Communication Plans

The Bridge Patient Portal survey indicated that there are multiple  barriers to addressing the post-visit patient communication challenges According to the survey,the two biggest barriers for healthcare organizations are “internal problems with managing existing technology” and “lack of knowledge to produce a satisfactory solution.” Moderate barriers include: lack of internal staff resources, lack of budget, and lack of interest by management or not a priority.

Conclusions

The results show that post-visit patient communication is a significant problem for many healthcare organizations, and the barriers for adoption cannot always be resolved internally. For this reason, it is increasingly important for organizations to work with third parties, including patient engagement strategists, consultants, and vendors that offer patient survey software to develop comprehensive plans to improve post-visit communication and, as a result, patient health outcomes.  With Bridge Patient Portal’s robust,  HIPAA compliant forms and secure notification system to deliver surveys to patients you will have a trusted partner to build your organization’s post visit communication plan.

4 Ways to Use Patient Engagement Technology to Boost Patient Engagement

Patient engagement is a necessary element for the achievement of better quality of care and it is a critical component of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) initiative to focus on quality of care.  CMS programs like the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, MACRA, are fundamentally changing the reimbursement matrix for healthcare in the United States by shifting the focus from fee for service to reimbursement for quality.  Thus, determining  the right patient engagement solution has become increasingly important for healthcare organizations.

A patient portal can increase a health organization’s ability to keep patients engaged and healthy. Furthermore, it facilitates the obtainment of MACRA goals. In order to succeed, however, physicians and staff must know how to properly leverage the portal to improve communication and boost engagement.

Here are four ways  to promote patient engagement technology, like patient portals,  to maintain an engaged patient population and improve patient outcomes

1. Raise Awareness about the Patient Engagement Technology

Does your organization have a strategy for promoting patient engagement technology? Simply implementing a patient portal  is not enough. Patients need to know that the technology is available to them and how they can benefit from using it.

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To provide an initial introduction to the patient portal, you can have staff assist patients with portal registration at check-in or checkout and provide step-by-step instructions for entering demographic and insurance information required for that day’s visit. Making tablets or kiosks available at check-in is a great way for patients to begin this process. You can send patients home with a handout about the portal in order to reinforce the message. Hanging posters promoting the portal in the waiting room and exam rooms is also a very cost effective way  to raise awareness about the patient engagement technology that you are promoting.

If your organization has a website, you will want to promote the portal by placing a link to the page in a prominent place with a strong call to action. Sending an email blast to your entire patient database is another great way to raise awareness.

2. Assign a Care Coordinator

If your healthcare organization uses patient care coordinators to promote health awareness and help patients reach their care goals, you know how integral these individuals are to successful patient engagement technology implementation.  Care Coordinators work with the physician and patient to develop a care plan, they communicate the provider’s plan to the patient, and they continually assess the patient’s needs. They also play a vital role in adoption of patient engagement technology by by promoting patient portal features that open lines of communication and streamline care plan management.

3. Strengthen the Physician’s Role

physicianPhysicians have one of the most important roles in promoting a patient engagement solution, like a patient portal.. A recent survey by the New England Journal of Medicine Insights Council, found that physician buy-in is essential to the adoption of patient engagement technology.  Patients are much more likely to use a new technology if their physician wants them to use it. It is important to note that the physician’s role does not end after suggesting a new patient engagement technology, many patients will require reinforcement of the idea.  For example, once patients are using a patient portal, their physician should mention the portal at each visit and specifically refer to  a feature in which the patient might find value.

4. Highlight Useful Features

Your patient portal can do a lot of things, but chances are that most of your patients do not care about all of the portal’s features. Instead of overwhelming patients with information, tell them about the features that they are most likely to use. This includes things that make it easier for patients to manage their health and to perform otherwise time-consuming tasks online – for example, features that give them the ability to:

As patients get more comfortable using the new patient engagement technology , your organization may choose to start an email newsletter or awareness campaign to market new features. This process can be simplified if you have a patient engagement platform that provides email notifications using templates customized for your hospital or practice.

What it all boils down to is how the patient feels after each portal experience. If the first experience with the patient portal is a pleasant one, the more likely the patient is to continue using it.

How Patient Engagement Platforms Optimize Patient Centered Care

By engaging patients and encouraging participation in their healthcare, organizations can ensure a greater number of health goals are met. Of course, patient engagement can be a challenge, but a successful plan starts with a realistic goal. Do you know what percent of patients your organization should initially attempt to engage through a patient engagement platform?

The concept of patient engagement evokes all kinds of emotions. It’s exciting for healthcare professionals to imagine that by engaging patients and encouraging participation in their care, a greater number of patients will meet their health goals, resulting in improved treatment outcomes  The challenge, of course, is how to accomplish this.

For  providers who participated  in the CMS Meaningful Use incentive program, and now MACRA, the mention of patient engagement may make people cringe . For reimbursement purposes, patient engagement  is more than just working with patients to achieve health goals; there’s the added pressure to convince patients to engage in “the right ways,” meaning performing specific actions that allow providers to achieve the objectives of CMS’ incentive programs.

The patient engagement objectives of  MACRA require providers to enable patients to securely view, download and transmit their health information online and to use secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients about relevant health information. In order to qualify for  incentive payments, however, more than five percent of a provider’s patients must take advantage of each of these functions, which is difficult for providers to control and may not even produce positive results.

Is it realistic, then, to think that the average provider can accomplish this?It is, according to a statistics from the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, ONC.

Despite many healthcare organizations experiencing difficulties getting patients to engage with them via an online patient engagement portal, the report cites real cases of hospitals meeting the 5 percent requirement and even exceeding it. Some hospitals have gotten as many as 20 percent of patients using their portal, proving that patient engagement is possible, though not necessarily easy.

How easy it is for an  organization to meet  the requirements largely depends on two things:

1. The size of the organization.

Larger hospitals and medical groups are more likely to get above 5 percent patient engagement than smaller organizations. This is possibly due to the resources they have at their disposal. Larger hospitals, for example, are more likely to have funds to acquire the necessary technology and properly integrate it to their electronic health record (EHR).

The size of a larger organization’s marketing department, however, may be its biggest advantage. This is due to the fact that a patient portal needs the right support to ensure success, both to encourage patients to sign up as well as to continuously to login and engage.

2. The patient portal software that’s being used.

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There are many factors that can make one software solution better than another when it comes to patient engagement. Having an EHR interface, for example, is essential for providing patients with access to their health information and meeting MACRA requirements.  More importantly, the software must have features that patients want to use.  According to a recent survey by the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst Insight Council, the patient portal features that are most important to patient engagement are secure messaging and online appointment scheduling  

Patient engagement platforms that work include those with the right mix of interactive features. For instance, offering a mobile application is a great way to increase usage, especially if it integrates with other apps that patients already use to track health indicators, such as exercise and weight.

Setting a Goal for Patient Engagement

Although there isn’t a magic number that hospitals and healthcare practices can expect to meet when it comes to patient engagement, what organizations can do is set a starting target.

A good initial  target for smaller organizations is 5 percent, while those with better marketing resources can aim for 10 percent. One of the easiest ways to meet this initial goal is to primarily target patients with a certain condition, such as diabetes. This will allow you to target your marketing efforts better without exhausting your resources. Knowing that these conditions require careful treatment and ongoing care, the benefit for patients is also high.

To get started, make it a goal to contact all active patients with the selected condition, enroll them in the portal, and then expand from there.

If your organization lacks the resources for marketing, you have options. Some patient portal vendors, including Bridge Patient Portal, have started providing more patient engagement-oriented services by offering marketing and patient support knowledge along with the software. This hands-on approach ensures that both vendor goals and client objectives are met.

Better patient experiences with Bridge Patient Portal’s McKesson interface

Bridge over river

Bridge over riverMany of the today’s leading health information technology organizations that offer a full suite of solutions, such as McKesson, are on a general trend of developing less and less software.  As these organizations dedicate fewer resources to maintaining their previous developed software it makes it hard to trust in these organizations as long term partners, especially as their cost effective solutions continue to diminish in lieu of higher priced offerings. When it comes to the EHR space, McKesson is unique, as unlike many EHR vendors that offer only a single product, McKesson offers multiple. These include McKesson Practice Plus, Paragon and InteGreat EHR. (more…)

Better patient experiences with Bridge Patient Portal’s Greenway Health™ interface

Bridge over river

Bridge over riverMany of the today’s leading Electronic Health Records (EHR) organizations, such as Greenway Health™, are challenged to provide a patient-centric, user friendly experience for their patient portal users. This is especially true when the EHR is being used as part of an Integrated Delivery Network (IDN) which uses multiple EHRs. The primary issues we have identified in this scenario include: (more…)

Better patient experiences with Bridge Patient Portal’s GE Centricity™ interface

Bridge over river

Bridge over riverMany of the today’s leading Electronic Health Records (EHR) organizations, such as GE Centricity™, are challenged to provide a patient-centric, user friendly experience for their patient portal users. Often times the patient portal is an afterthought to the core product offered by EHR software companies and the portal is left without core functionality. Some of the biggest issues we have discovered in organizations using EHR-bundled patient portals include: (more…)

Better patient experiences with Bridge Patient Portal’s Athenahealth® interface

Bridge over river

Bridge over riverMany of the today’s leading Electronic Health Records (EHR) organizations, such as Athenahealth®, are challenged with interoperability issues when they are operating in Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs) that include inpatient and outpatient facilities. Frequently the EHR bundled portals from the larger hospitals or facilities become the primary portal, and the other patient portals, such as Athenahealth’s, are used less frequently used. The main issues we have discovered in organizations using EHR bundled patient portals in IDNs with multiple EHRs are the following: (more…)

Better patient experiences with Bridge Patient Portal’s Allscripts® interface

Bridge over river

Bridge over riverAs a result of acquiring 3rd party software vendors, many of the today’s leading Electronic Health Records (EHR) organizations, such as Allscripts®, offer multiple software platforms, including EHR, patient portals and Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) solutions.  Their patient portals, often lack customizability and have trouble adapting the software to organizations’ unique workflows and preferences. Some of the other underlying issues we have discovered in organizations using EHR-bundled patient portals include:

(more…)

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