Patient engagement: HIMSS14 focuses on actively involving the patient

Patient engagement: HIMSS14 focuses on actively involving the patient

By Dodge Communications on March 13th, 2014

With the industry’s largest health IT educational program and exhibition, HIMSS14, in the rear view mirror, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on a trend I find fascinating—patient engagement. It’s not exactly a surprise that involving patients in their care was a focus at the conference this year, especially when you take a look at the title of the opening keynote, “The Connected Patient: Learning How Patients can Help in Healthcare.” In fact, there were 43 sessions, including the keynote, which focused on patient engagement.

The argument can be made that government mandates, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), are the obvious drivers for this attention on patient engagement. In an industry where the phrase “lowering costs and improving outcomes” has become a mantra, many see actively engaging patients as the key. Consider the penalties associated with hospital readmission rates. Many providers are evaluating their pre- and post-discharge processes and incorporating patient and family involvement as a way avoid preventable readmissions. The goal is to incorporate the patient into the care plan thus reducing the likelihood of a readmission. Not surprisingly, many sessions at HIMSS focused on the use of technology to enable engagement. 

For example, during a HIMSS presentation titled, “Interactive Patient Care Integration Activates Patients, Reduces Readmissions, Lowers Costs,” the Cardon Children’s Medical Center, part of Banner Health, showed significant results with their pediatric asthma care plan when the hospital utilized technology to streamline and standardize the teaching process, as well as track completion and comprehension of education before the patient is discharged. As a result of engaging the patient, the average length of stay fell from 2.11 days to 1.19 days and 30-day readmissions remained low over time, resulting in a considerable reduction in variable direct cost per asthma patient. Additionally the session titled, “Engaging Patients Through a Compelling Web Experience,” covered utilizing patient portals to address Meaningful Use Stage 2 patient and family engagement requirements.

Issues such as readmissions, PPACA, portals and Meaningful Use were only a small portion of the topics covered in the patient engagement sessions at HIMSS14. And as the healthcare industry becomes increasingly consumer driven, it will be interesting to see which up and coming technologies, such as mHealth and telemedicine, will lead us into this new world of patients as active participants in their own care.