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Oct 29 2012   10:29AM GMT

Using EHRs to engage patients as well as data

Posted by: Jenny Laurello
EHR, electronic health records, patient centered medical home, Patient engagement, Patient portals, PCMH

Guest post by: Kirk Treasure, VP sales and marketing, Meditab Software

Today’s health care providers have the capability to use the data generated through the use of an electronic health record (EHR) system to dramatically improve both the delivery and effectiveness of healthcare while engaging their patients in a variety of ways. New opportunities for physicians to deliver personalized health-related information, take part in interactive discussions, and create new social experiences that enhance patient relationships are provided by rapidly evolving tools like the patient portal, patient health record (PHR), health information exchanges (HIE), and the patient centered medical home (PCMH).

Savvy physicians are learning how to take advantage of the online social environment by using EHR systems as the foundation to deliver more personalized services to their patients. For example, patient portals allow physicians to post individualized pre-op and post-op instructions in a convenient, “self-service” environment, reducing the need for time-consuming phone conversations. In addition, patient portals can engage and educate patients with an extensive library of wellness and prevention topics, while providing a market differentiator for the provider.

The primary care physician, various specialists, pharmacy and laboratory can all be “on the same page” when managing a patient with a high-cost chronic condition, such as diabetes or hypertension thanks to EHR systems. Physicians can review an EHR for recent prescriptions and laboratory test results, in addition to sharing their different perspectives on a patient’s medical issue. That avoids the risk of ordering a repeat test, which raises overall costs, or an unnecessary test, which could be noted by a payer or regulatory agency.

Physicians can also create a participatory environment that contributes to better health, such as self-monitoring of chronic conditions by uploading key information from the EHR system to the patient portal. Patients can send the provider regular updates on health issues like blood pressure or glucose levels in this interactive setting.

Patient portals also contribute to a more social and collaborative approach to delivering health care services. For instance, patients can be given an opportunity to provide feedback on their experience with the doctor through surveys: How was his/her bedside manner? Was there a long wait before going into the examination room? Did the office staff answer any questions before scheduling the next appointment? These patient responses can help to identify areas for improvement and improve satisfaction scores.

It’s also important to recognize that the EHR system gives providers convenient access to aggregate patient data, which can be examined for timely nuggets of information or emerging clinical trends. Providers can then use that content for blogs, postings to Facebook, YouTube or other social media sites.

Having the means to get an accurate message out to patients, families and friends can be a powerful tool with so much misinformation available online. Providers can develop their own discussion or support groups on topics like cardiac conditions, asthma, diabetes, hypertension or pediatric care. This allows providers to engage patients and potentially future patients in less formal settings outside the office as they provide accurate information regarding these topics.

As you can see, there are a multitude of ways that today’s EHR systems can facilitate more personalized delivery of care and greater patient engagement, while improving operational efficiencies. It’s clear that these related technologies will continue to advance, creating more opportunities for provider-patient interactions in the future. Most importantly, the combination of an EHR system with a portal component offers a solid foundation for providers to improve patient outcomes – the true bottom line of the U.S. health care system. It’s clear there’s no time like the present for providers to get engaged and get online as we move into stage 2 of meaningful use and beyond where patient/provider communication becomes even more critical.

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