Technology is playing a key role in the increase of patient engagement in the current healthcare landscape. Driven by the patient-centric nature of the Affordable Care Act the fundamental assumption is that patient engagement will improve healthcare outcomes, improve overall population health, and reduce healthcare costs.
So, which technologies are being used to increase patient engagement?
Several studies have shown benefits from secure email, patient reminders, electronic medical records, apps, and wearable technology.
Electronic communication has been shown to improve engagement, reduce office visits, shorten phone visits, and allow quicker access for care teams to important patient information such as test results.
A 2015 Kaiser study found that among patients with chronic health conditions, over a third reported that simply communicating with their providers via email improved their overall health.
Electronic reminders in the form of emails, phone calls, and/or text messages have also been shown to be an effective method for communicating with patients and ensuring consistent medical care. Studies show an increase in vaccination rates among rheumatology patients taking immunosuppressants (see the study here), and flu vaccination rates (here), as well as a decrease in missed appointments (here), and an increase in Physician initiated care actions (here).
Electronic Medical Records
Patient accessibility to medical records range from simple, partly automated portals to a more fully automated and integrated offering of health information, access to physicians, education, and compliance information.
So far, these portals are too new to offer many scientific evaluations of effectiveness, but the anecdotal evidence is largely positive. Access to personal health information including current prescriptions, individualized health education, and even interactive instructions for physical therapy follow-up exercises are all available through various EMR systems.
Applications, particularly mobile apps, that record and help to manage health care information is an exploding trend. For example, apps are available for diabetics that test, and track blood glucose levels, diet information, and other biometric data. This type of system allows patients to better record information and easily share it with their doctors.
Wearable medical devices (those that are prescribed by a doctor rather than a personal trainer) are in their infancy, but they’re expected to be a $1 billion dollar market by 2020.
From heart monitors to diabetes management, to drug delivery, wearable technology has the potential to dramatically change patient compliance. As our healthcare system evolves from illness treatment to wellness promotion, wearable devices that cater to the physical fitness of our populations may also prove to have a role in clinical healthcare.
At its most useful, technology is fundamentally a tool that makes difficult things easier, complicated things simpler and improves the quality of our lives.
There is every reason to expect that the technology innovators will continue to make the tools available to more fully engage patients in their own health care and information, and to help patients comply with care prescriptions.
From simple automated email and text reminders to the (still experimental) glucose monitoring contacts and other wearable medical devices, technology is allowing patients to be engaged in their own healthcare in exciting new ways.
Let us know what you think.