Now that most hospitals and health networks have experienced the challenges of implementing EHRs, they have set their sights on a new destination— patient and EHR integration. In addition to being an important part of meeting CMS requirements for meaningful use, improving patient engagement through EHR use is critical to efforts aimed at reducing health care costs and improving outcomes.
Establishing Needed Interoperability
Interoperability is more than just ensuring a hospital’s EHR shares information seamlessly with other health care providers. According to Shahid Shah, a software analyst and author of The Healthcare IT Guy blog, EHRs must offer some key features to drive true integration. Healthcare IT News shared his suggestions in a 2012 article entitled “12 Integration Capabilities EHRs Will Need to Have.” The 8 features that are most critical for improving the patient experience are:
- Single Sign-On (SSO) Capabilities. Consumers accustomed to SSO in their everyday use of social media, retail sites and more will be easily frustrated if they are not able to switch between mHealth applications using a common login and password.
- Context Tracking. As more applications are developed for EHR integration, it’s important to be able to follow the “’active patient’ or ‘active task’ being performed.” This can be accomplished through custom APIs or Clinical Context Object Workgroups (CCOWs) designed to synchronize applications in real time for the user.
- Content Management. Remember the EHR versus EMR question? In a way, says Shah, EHRs are just fancy document management systems, organizing all of the medical records from disparate sources into a single repository. Having content management interoperability services (CMIS) will ensure that consumers can use different apps against the various repositories to see a single, comprehensive view of their health.
- Customizable Dashboards. While not all users will take advantage of such a capability, it’s an important opportunity to connect with patients who want to take control of what they see every time they sign on.
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR). According to Shah, EHRs need to take advantage of this technology— which is well-established already— to “help improve collaboration with patients and other physicians, since they won’t always be at a computer.”
- Voice Recognition. Consumers are already familiar with voice recognition thanks to Apple’s Siri and OK, Google voice command applications to support hands-free search. EHRs need to adopt this type of technology, as well.
- Natural Language Understanding. Hardcore researchers may understand how to conduct a Boolean search, but most consumers rely on natural language— whether it is a search for the best price on an appliance or a search for results from blood work. EHRs need to be able to convert natural language search terms into structured data automatically.
- Custom Import/Export. It seems like common sense to have the ability to export population health data as a spreadsheet, but not all EHRs allow easy importing and exporting of data. They need to because consumer will want it— to track their weight over time, for example.
How Do You Engage Patients with Your EHR?
Of course, simply building a patient portal, even an ultimate full-featured version, is not enough to attract all of your patients. Only when health care providers understand their patient populations— how they think, how they seek out health information, how they consume health care services— can high level integration begin.
While meaningful use standards set the bar low -- only 5 percent engagement through the EHR is needed to meet the requirements – a patient portal offers a way for a healthcare organization to form or strengthen its relationship with patients. This can affect patient activation, loyalty, and acquisition through peer recommendation.
To develop a high-traffic patient portal, providers need to understand what motivates individuals and offer propositions and portal features that help patients see the personal benefits of engaging through the portal. However, different patients are motivated by different things, and a “one size fits all” approach to communications and messaging around the portal will be limited in its effectiveness.
A healthcare organization needs to speak to the various types of health care consumers based on these unique motivations. The proprietary psychographic segmentation model developed by c2b solutions can help healthcare organizations better understand what will drive behavior and increase utilization of their EHR patient portals.