Myth #1. Patient engagement doesn’t have to be a top priority now.
Reality: Patient engagement is a goal of several major health reform initiatives now with rewards for those who succeed and penalties for those who don’t. Without a plan for meaningfully engaging patients, you could be penalized for failing to meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 guidelines. You could miss the boat on preparing for accountable care, Patient Centered Medical Homes, and managing population health. What’s more, your patients will choose to go to other practices where they can securely view online and transmit records, and get the convenience and access to care they are demanding. It can take months to implement effective patient engagement strategies, so start now.
Myth #2. Older patients won’t use an online patient portal.
Reality: 67% of Americans 65 and older say that accessing their medical information online is ver y or somewhat important. 83% of U.S. seniors think that they should have full access to their electronic health records but only 28% actually do. In an AMA study, patients over 65 adopted portals at a rate greater than patients aged 18 35. And Internet use between 2000 and 2012 tripled for those 65 and older and doubled among those 50 to 64 years old.
Sources: Accenture. Silver Surfers are Catching the eHealth Wave. Available here.
Pew Internet & American Life Project. Senior Citizens and Digital Technology. Available here.
Myth #3. Sharing medical information with patients will add to provider workload.
Reality: Giving patients access to their health records, lab results and progress notes does not mean providers will handle an influx of inquiries from confused patients. Rather, providers report increased efficiency and appreciate being able to respond to patients at their convenience. Evaluation studies find that telephone volume decreases when secure messaging is introduced. Studies also find that the communication content of patient messages tends to be appropriate, addressing non urgent care issues. Portal features have been found to provide cost savings by decreasing indirect and direct labor costs, such as mailing costs for lab results, online billing questions versus telephone, online appointment scheduling, and online appointment reminders. Keep in mind that best practices suggest educating patients about when and how to use secure messaging, and to provide a brief explanation when posting test results along with guidance for any follow up.
Source: National Learning Consortium Fact Sheet August 2012.
Myth #4: Lower income patients won’t be able to use online patient information.
Reality: Despite perceptions that lower income populations lack access to reliable Internet connections, a new study reports that a large majority of low income, underserved, and safety net patients want to communicate with their providers using email, text messaging, and online patient portals. In fact, 60% of lower income patients in the study reported using email regularly, 54% said they obtained general research information from the Internet, and 78% expressed interest in electronic communications with health care ser vices. Digital disparities do exist among racial and ethnic minorities, the physically disabled, lower income, and those with limited English proficiency. But used with appropriate outreach strategies, health information technology (HIT) such as patient portals can offer important tools to improve the quality and efficiency of care across at risk and traditionally underserved populations.
Source: Bresnick, J. EHR Intelligence. February 28, 2013.