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    Tashfeen Ekram
    Tashfeen Ekram, MD
    Patient engagement efforts often suffer amid competition for provider time in documentation, coding and other health record management tasks tied to delivering specific, measurable health outcomes.

    To increase patient engagement and move the needle on the value provided to patients, administrators should leverage new technology to extend provider reach beyond the traditional appointment to deliver a higher level of personalized care.

    Studies have shown that a wide range of patient engagement efforts are effective and can have a significant impact on self-management practices, health behaviors, health outcomes and costs. Patient engagement efforts in the form of enhanced decision-making support lowered medical costs by 5.3% and decreased hospital admissions by 12.5%.1 The Other 45 study found that providers who invested an additional 45 minutes with chronic disease patients were able to significantly improve patients’ self-management practices, confidence and knowledge about their conditions.2

    One poll found that primary care providers spend 19 minutes on the EHR for every 12 minutes spent with a patient.3 Given this imbalance, it is time to turn the traditional patient engagement paradigm on its head.

    Technology is starting to accelerate the healthcare system’s steps toward empowering patients to make increasingly informed decisions in their own care by providing solutions that enhance the provider-patient relationship by supporting more meaningful patient data collection, reducing data silos and allowing for intuitive visualization of the entire patient journey. This is a path for providers to develop closer relationships with patients that result in better health and better value for the health organization as a whole.

    A clearer picture of the patient

    Health data has incredible potential to do more than drive revenue — it can help move the needle on health outcomes by giving providers the data points they need to deliver personalized medicine to their patients.

    Some healthcare organizations have made significant strides in generating better patient data. Screening assessments around social determinants of health, for example, have become much more widely used. Some organizations track patient-reported outcome measures to monitor symptoms and vital signs.

    To leverage patient-reported data, it must be convenient for both provider and patient. The technology should be mobile-friendly with secure forms; communication should occur in the patient’s medium and language of choice; triggers should flag particular members of the care team when patients respond with certain keywords or troubling responses.

    One dermatology clinic in New Jersey began integrating secure-form capability into its workflow by starting with patient intake. The practice automated appointment reminders to go out to patients in advance of their scheduled appointment. Embedded within the reminder, which could be sent via text message or email, depending on the patient’s preferred contact method, was a link unique to the individual patient for a HIPAA-compliant, mobile-friendly intake form.

    After the initial transition, already one in four patients were choosing to complete digital intake process ahead of their appointment time. Within just a few weeks, the practice saw its already high net promoter score increase by 3%, indicating the improved workflow contributed to increased patient satisfaction.

    Reducing data silos

    More data is not necessarily a good thing when providers report being overburdened with documentation, clunky EHRs and the challenge of meaningfully exchanging data with other providers to coordinate patient care and smart care handoffs. Integration with the EHR is fundamental. Patient data must have a single source of truth, and that should lay with the patient and be easily accessible by the patient’s care team should the patient choose to share it. Regulation such as the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Interoperability of Health Information can support the reduction of data silos by facilitating health record sharing with patients and prohibiting information blocking among providers.4

    A Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in California was able to drive increased access to preventive care screenings by using a technology solution which integrated with its EHR. The integration allowed them to easily identify patients who were past due for a Pap smear and automate outreach to that population. This process yielded a 30% increase in access to the preventive screening among the patient population. Converted patients were easily identifiable in both the EHR and the technology solution to allow for simple, streamlined reporting.

    Visualizing the patient journey

    Key to patient engagement is allowing providers to easily get a clear picture of the patient without significantly increasing workload. Facilitating providers’ ability to harness patient-reported data, interpret that data and personalize their patient engagement strategy accordingly is critical to achieving greater levels of patient engagement. How much better could a provider treat a patient with high blood pressure if he or she had a better understanding of the times when a patient’s blood pressure is at its highest? This kind of data helps inform and deepen the provider-patient relationship. Patients, in turn, can become more engaged in their care because the provider is working on a treatment plan individualized to their needs and conditions.

    That means no more endless scrolling through physician notes, sorting complicated EHR file structures and sending or receiving faxes. Patients’ care teams should be able to access simple, visual information about a patient’s care journey — including his or her self-reported data — before, during and after appointments. Successful visualization of a patient’s health information helps providers encode key data points, recognize patterns and dig in deeper where technology has flagged outlier data points or red flag responses.

    A deeper patient-provider relationship

    As healthcare organizations work toward generating value over volume, and as patients exert an increasing level of control over the healthcare choices they make, patients and providers must work together to improve health outcomes in a personalized, resource-effective way. Because the traditional medical visit is being cut short and competes with additional provider responsibilities, healthcare organizations must ramp up their patient engagement strategies to maximize the benefit patients receive from their care. To do so, innovative new technology that allows providers to seamlessly collect patient-reported data, integrate that data into existing systems and visualize that data for more actionable insights will allow organizations to enhance their patient engagement strategies and deepen their relationships with patients along the way.


    1. Veroff D, Marr A, Wennberg D. “Enhanced support for shared decision making reduced costs of care for patients with preference-sensitive conditions.” Health Affairs. Vol. 32, No. 2. February 2013.
    2. Stoner A, Cannon M. “The Other 45: Enhancing chronic disease management.” Presentation, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Annual Conference, 2018. Available from:
    3. Stanford Medicine. “How doctors feel about electronic health records.” 2018. Available from:
    4. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. “Notice of proposed rulemaking to improve the interoperability of health information.” Available from:
    Tashfeen Ekram

    Written By

    Tashfeen Ekram, MD


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