By Brita Van Fossen, Editorial Assistant
The heightened push for meaningful use compliance that the health care industry is expecting in 2012 will, of course, involve electronic health records. Patient engagement will also play a key role, and, while personal health record (PHR) adoption rates are rising, there is still a great deal of progress to be made.
Although there is no single, infallible method of PHR adoption so far, successful implementations — including that of the University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC) — can provide meaningful insight and guidance for those still grappling with the transition.
It’s important to find a PHR system compatible with the needs of all users — physicians and patients. Additionally, it should be user-friendly for all ages and technological backgrounds. Basically, the system needs to be straightforward enough for an elderly patient to use, while still being complex enough to display all the necessary data.
Another factor to keep in mind is that of tethering. According to HealthLeaders magazine, the tethered option, which allows the information on the PHR to be automatically linked to the greater EHR system, is winning favor among both physicians and patients. Tethering allows for a more direct, shared connection. This incidentally, is an incredibly important factor for patients. It may come as no surprise that patients prefer the security of being directly connected to their physicians and viewing the same information, given the heavily wired world that we live in.
In addition to the system requirements and configurations, there are several other ways to boost PHR adoption.
· The cost of the services is a deal-breaker for some patients, so it’s important to keep them as inexpensive as possible. If it’s feasible, offer them for free.
· Language barriers can be another deterrent for patients, so it’s important for providers to consider their demographic and provide the necessary compatibility.
· Lack of education in medical terminology as well as technology can lead patients to avoid using PHRs. Educational programs can help boost PHR adoption for patients feeling overwhelmed by these factors.
· Awareness is a crucial tool in the fight for patient engagement. Patients will not use a patient portal if they don’t know that its available to them. Several tactics, from displays on waiting room computers to websites and friendly reminders from office staff, can help create inform about the systems and their benefits.
Ultimately, findings have revealed that one of most effective ways to harbor patient engagement is to have the suggestion come straight from the mouths of physicians. For patients, knowing that their doctor supports and utilizes a system that allows direct, out-of-office communication instills a sense of connectivity and results in increased PHR adoption.