We're switching the focus of conversation on the HIT Breakdown to patient engagement. In this episode, Nordic Practice Director Lauren Griessmeyer talks with Senior Consultant Kassie Remo, an experienced ambulatory clinic operations director and early adopter of Epic’s MyChart.
Lauren and Kassie explain the importance of patient engagement and highlight opportunities to add value to patient care. They also discuss how healthcare providers and patients can exchange information and improve patient outcomes using the tools within MyChart. The links to the audio file appear below.
If you would like to talk about patient engagement or other challenges related to getting the most out of your EHR, please contact us. We’d enjoy the conversation.
[00:00] - Introduction
[01:21] - What is patient engagement?
[02:51] - Why is patient engagement important in today’s healthcare?
[03:28] - Adding value through patient engagement
[04:21] - Using patient engagement tools for early interventions and improved patient outcomes
[05:15] - What features within MyChart promote patient engagement?
[07:00] - Can patients exchange information with the clinicians via MyChart?
[07:28] - Epic and Apple HealthKit
John: Hello and welcome to the HIT Breakdown where we talk all things health IT, often, but not always related to your Epic EHR. I'm John Pollard with Nordic. Today, we're switching our focus to patient engagement. We've captured a conversation between Nordic Practice Director, Lauren Griessmeyer, and Senior Nordic Consultant, Kassie Remo. Kassie brings years of experience as an ambulatory clinic operations director as well as being an early adopter of Epic's MyChart.
After defining patient engagement, Lauren and Kassie highlight a number of opportunities for you to engage patients in a two-way relationship via MyChart. Let's go to Lauren and Kassie.
Lauren: I'm Lauren Griessmeyer, one of the practice directors here at Nordic, and I'm here today with Kassie Remo. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Kassie: Thanks, Lauren. I'm a senior consultant here at Nordic, and I have many years of ambulatory operations experience. I had the advantage of having been a clinic operations director in an organization that was an early adopter of MyChart. Today, I'm here to talk about patient engagement and how you might use Epic’s MyChart as a tool.
Lauren: Okay, cool. Why don't we start pretty generally and just...Patient engagement is a big term. Why don't we pull a little box around that? What is patient engagement?
Kassie: I'm glad you asked, Lauren, because it's really an elusive topic these days. Traditionally, many folks have considered patient engagement really patient compliance, and then more recently, probably used the more polite term of patient adherence, but today, we really find that patient engagement really has a much broader scope. It's primarily due to the fact that there are a lot of expectations on healthcare organizations in terms of producing value, so both the payers and the patients expect more, and we also have patients who are now also involved in submitting their own health information, and they want that integrated into their electronic health record.
Lauren: If you were to try to define patient engagement just in two or three sentences, how would you define that?
Kassie: I would say that it's collaborating with the healthcare team, involving the patient, of course, and sharing their health information. That's the real nuance, I think, in terms of the more modern definition of what patient engagement means today.
Lauren: It's really the back and forth? It's not just the clinician getting information out to the patient, but the patient actually being able to send information or send questions and concerns back to the clinician as well?
Kassie: Yes, absolutely, Lauren, because there are many opportunities now for patients to be able to collect their own fitness information. They might be tracking their weight really carefully, and they wish that their provider knew about it. Those are some examples that we see very frequently today.
Lauren: Now that we've defined what patient engagement is, why is it important in today's healthcare landscape?
Kassie: It's important for several reasons. First of all, healthcare organizations are really held to producing value for patients and payers, and it's important because you need to identify patients and stratify them, especially when they have chronic health conditions, and you really want to manage their care to better health. There are many examples where it's very important for the healthcare organizations to be able to involve patients in a way that shares their information and encourages them to take the actions that you need them to take.
Lauren: Why don't we start with that first piece, the adding value? What are some ways that really engaging the patient can add value to what a healthcare organization is providing?
Kassie: If you were a healthcare organization and you wanted to do care coordination, outreach, and so on, it's very important that you actually get traction with patients. There are many ways that you can use tools like Epic's MyChart in order to encourage patients to take certain actions. An example of that would be something like using health maintenance. Those are sex- and age-related measures, so you can remind patients that they need certain things to be accomplished. You might have a patient, for instance, that needs to have a mammogram, and that patient could be sent an alert via MyChart, and then you have the convenience of MyChart where you can actually do the direct scheduling as well.
Lauren: We talked about adding value for the patient. What about using patient engagement tools for things like early interventions and improved patient outcomes?
Kassie: There are many opportunities where you can improve patient engagement by, first of all, identifying and then stratifying different groups of patients typically as done by a particular condition - take diabetes or high blood pressure for example. There are a lot of ways that you can send specific messages to those patients and utilize MyChart as a very effective tool for that because the other advantage is that it's a touchpoint with the healthcare organization, and it adds value for the patient because the patient feels that some action is really being taken and that it's a two-way street in terms of the provider suggesting that something be done to improve the patient's health, and then hopefully, leading to better patient adherence.
Lauren: It seems like the main tool that we've talked about here has been MyChart. What are some of the features within MyChart, specifically, that you can think of that are used for adding value or for improving patient outcomes.
Kassie: Earlier, I had mentioned that health maintenance is very popular, and this is basically a population health type approach in terms of general preventive care that all patients should get. Those alerts always come based on age and gender of a particular patient.
The advantage is that you can then schedule a MyChart appointment. That's a way for patient adherence because at the moment that the patient gets a reminder, they are alerted to the fact that they should actually take action.
Then, another way is that MyChart also interfaces with a lot of third party content providers. WebMD would be an example. Based on the patient's conditions in terms of their diagnosis, they can be sent specific information from WebMD that's actually tied to their MyChart account. Then, without knowing it, the patient is actually receiving information that's tailored for them.
Personalized information is really what's most important in terms of engaging a particular patient, because we all know there's a wealth of information related to health, and as an individual patient, no one really wants to wade through all of that.
Lauren: So far, we've talked about a lot of ways that clinicians can distribute information to the patient using MyChart. Are there good opportunities for the patient to exchange information with the clinician that actually do the reverse of that?
Kassie: Absolutely. As you mentioned, in addition to the outreach that you can do with MyChart, you can also take patient-entered information, and there are ways that that can be uploaded via MyChart into the patient's electronic health record.
I can describe briefly how that technology works today because there are a lot of exciting developments especially with Apple HealthKit that Epic is taking full advantage of.
Lauren: Cool. Go for it.
Kassie: One of the things that they do is if you have an Apple IOS-8 phone or if you have an iPod and not and iPad yet, you can actually upload information to MyChart, and I'll just tell you briefly how it works.
Inherently, within your iPhone, you'll see that there's a health app and that tracks the steps that you walk daily. That in and of itself engages patients by allowing some friendly competition maybe then among family members.
In addition to that, you can also track other parameters of your health. Examples of that would be fitness data. You could track your weight. You can track blood pressure. You could track sleep patterns, and you would do all that by downloading health apps that actually interface with the Apple phone.
Then, you can have your provider place an order for a flow sheet, and by doing that, that allows you to automatically upload that information from those apps to your MyChart account. When you do that, then you're able to share the information and have it ultimately integrated with your electronic health record.
The other good thing is that the provider can set parameters, so the providers don't have to look at a flood of information coming from patients that have decided to use this technology, but they can, in fact, screen it so they can set patient-specific limits.
For instance, if they want to track all their diabetics that might have a particular measure of glucose that's out of whack, they would be able to go ahead and set that.
Lauren: They would be able to say, "My diabetic patients that have a particular glucose range, these are the ones that I want to see versus everybody else?”
Kassie: That's correct. They would be able to do that. They could track those patients that need the most intervention.
John: Thanks for joining us today at the HIT Breakdown. We hope you'll join us again for more on patient engagement. Thanks for listening.
About the HIT Breakdown
In the HIT Breakdown, we interview industry experts on topics related to health information technology. While the topics will often be related to your Epic EHR, we’ll also be talking about broader issues and strategic challenges that impact your ability to improve healthcare.