Does every patient engagement tool improve outcomes? That’s the question that many providers have been asking as engagement has gained traction in the health care industry. Even some of the biggest names in health technology are getting on board.
Amidst all the industry buzz, the NEJM Catalyst Insight Council recently conducted its third survey on patient engagement and found that while many providers are planning engagement efforts, there are also significant barriers to implementation that must be addressed.
The NEJM survey was conducted last November and analyzed 595 responses. Most of the respondents were clinicians, with executives and clinical leaders making up the rest of the pool.
About half of respondents agreed that engagement tools help to foster a better environment for predictive health analytics and prevention. Certain tools such as wearables that supply data directly from the patient can alert physicians to any impending issues, improving preventive treatment and lessening the risk of further complications. Yet only 63% of executives and only 42% of clinicians considered this a top priority.
Further, the top two benefits of patient engagement tools, according to the survey, are supporting patient health and informing providers on the status of patients outside the clinic, which were cited by 67% and 60% of respondents, respectively. That statistic is notable because it aligns with the industry’s recent focus on value-based care:
“What’s telling about the direction health care is moving is that both of these answers are distinctly patient-centric, not focused on benefits to the provider or health system. … The technology needs to provide motivation to the patient to continue with the desired behavior. If the technology can show to a patient that a desired metric correlates with improved symptoms, then the patient will be more likely to adhere to a given regimen.”
And when it comes to specific technologies, the majority of respondents were also in agreement as to which devices brought the most benefits. A full 85% of all respondents reported that biometric measurement devices were the most valuable patient engagement tools, followed by smartphone apps with 75% and text message reminders for medication adherence, appointment reminders and other important messaging at 70%.
But there are also numerous barriers to widespread implementation. Many engagement procedures and tools are not covered by insurance, and a little over half of respondents listed that as the number one barrier to adoption. Lack of interoperability and integration with EHRs was also a significant issue, coming in second with 46%. Many hospitals are still running legacy systems that make integrating patient data from outside sources much more of a burden than it should be; being unable to efficiently communicate with data lessens the potential for significant engagement.
Disconnects between clinicians and executives is also a barrier that must be addressed. While not quelling excitement over the possibilities of patient engagement, this barrier is one of different priorities for both sides. For example, the survey found that many more clinicians found texting to be an effective engagement method than did executives (77% to 65%, respectively). In fact, better communication across all areas of health care is necessary to improve outcomes for both patients and providers.
The key is to embrace personalization so that patients receive communications in the formats, channels and language they like best. The importance of personalizing patient engagement cannot be understated. The results show that personalization works.Coordinated care and quality engagement go hand in hand as they both center treatment around the patient. And they complement each other; coordinated care helps overcome barriers to treatment, and engagement empowers patients to have a say in their own health care. Healthcare needs this continued focus on the patient, and the more engagement there is, the better the outcomes will be – for everyone.