By engaging patients and encouraging participation in their healthcare, organizations can ensure a greater number of health goals are met. Of course, patient engagement can be a challenge, but a successful plan starts with a realistic goal. Do you know what percent of patients your organization should initially attempt to engage through a patient engagement platform?
The concept of patient engagement evokes all kinds of emotions. It’s exciting for healthcare professionals to imagine that by engaging patients and encouraging participation in their care, a greater number of patients will meet their health goals, resulting in improved treatment outcomes The challenge, of course, is how to accomplish this.
For providers who participated in the CMS Meaningful Use incentive program, and now MACRA, the mention of patient engagement may make people cringe. For reimbursement purposes, patient engagement is more than just working with patients to achieve health goals; there’s the added pressure to convince patients to engage in “the right ways,” meaning performing specific actions that allow providers to achieve the objectives of CMS’ incentive programs.
The patient engagement objectives of MACRA require providers to enable patients to securely view, download, and transmit their health information online and to use secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients about relevant health information. In order to qualify for incentive payments, however, more than five percent of a provider’s patients must take advantage of each of these functions, which is difficult for providers to control and may not even produce positive results.
Is it realistic, then, to think that the average provider can accomplish this? It is, according to statistics from the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, ONC.
Despite many healthcare organizations experiencing difficulties getting patients to engage with them via an online patient engagement portal, the report cites real cases of hospitals meeting the 5 percent requirement and even exceeding it. Some hospitals have gotten as many as 20 percents of patients using their portal, proving that patient engagement is possible, though not necessarily easy.
How easy it is for an organization to meet the requirements largely depends on two things:
1. The size of the organization.
Larger hospitals and medical groups are more likely to get above 5 percent patient engagement than smaller organizations. This is possibly due to the resources they have at their disposal. Larger hospitals, for example, are more likely to have funds to acquire the necessary technology and properly integrate it into their electronic health record (EHR).
The size of a larger organization’s marketing department, however, may be its biggest advantage. This is due to the fact that a patient portal needs the right support to ensure success, both to encourage patients to sign up and to continue to login and engage.
2. The patient portal software that’s being used.
There are many factors that can make one software solution better than another when it comes to patient engagement. Having an EHR interface, for example, is essential for providing patients with access to their health information and meeting MACRA requirements. More importantly, the software must have features that patients want to use. According to a recent survey by the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst Insight Council, the patient portal features that are most important to patient engagement are secure messaging and online appointment scheduling
Patient engagement platforms that work include those with the right mix of interactive features. For instance, offering a mobile application is a great way to increase usage, especially if it integrates with other apps that patients already use to track health indicators, such as exercise and weight.
Setting a Goal for Patient Engagement
Although there isn’t a magic number that hospitals and healthcare practices can expect to meet when it comes to patient engagement, what organizations can do is set a starting target.
A good initial target for smaller organizations is 5 percent, while those with better marketing resources can aim for 10 percent. One of the easiest ways to meet this initial goal is to primarily target patients with a certain condition, such as diabetes. This will allow you to target your marketing efforts better without exhausting your resources. Knowing that these conditions require careful treatment and ongoing care, the benefit for patients is also high.
To get started, make it a goal to contact all active patients with the selected condition, enroll them in the portal, and then expand from there.
If your organization lacks the resources for marketing, you have options. Some patient portal vendors, including Bridge Patient Portal, have started providing more patient engagement-oriented services by offering marketing and patient support knowledge along with the software. This hands-on approach ensures that both vendor goals and client objectives are met.