By Ileana Balcu, Member, HIMSS eConnecting with Consumers Patient Experience and Social Media Task Forces, Project Manager, Dulcian, Inc., Communications Team, Society for Participatory Medicine.
I am a patient who wants to be as engaged as possible in my healthcare. I also build web systems and I love playing around with them. Through both of these lenses, here’s my advice for health IT individuals and organizations that want to engage patients:
1. Get feedback from existing e-patients. Many of today’s patient portals are not as user-friendly as they could be. Determine the most important portal feature to fix or implement by asking patients who already use the system.
2. Give patients a clear and working way to report issues and get help. It is essential to have a working feedback system in order to avoid frustrating patients. In my experience, I encountered technical problems and reached out through a help link. The link went to a vendor, but the vendor politely redirected me to the physician’s office. The physician had no idea the system didn’t work and the office staff told me to not use the system. It’s important for everyone to be on the same page.
3. Budget and prepare for changes. Incorporating patient feedback will require changes. Make sure you have someone to make and implement the changes. The vendor should not be allowed to leave until a reasonable number of patients are using the system and are satisfied.
4. Recruit patients through physicians’ offices. I always let my physicians know that I’d love to test their system. They smile, ask why – and never follow up. The physician is the best connection to a patient. Give physicians ways to recruit patients – they can test and give feedback on the system. Be prepared to reimburse patients, even modestly – travel reimbursements, $50 gift cards, etc. It shows respect for their time and expertise.
5. Build a relationship to patients via social media. IT savvy patients are on social media and the IT department needs to get involved in it.
The HIMSS Resource Library has examples of successful patient engagement by healthcare systems. In addition, two new books can help:
- HIMSS’ Engage! Transforming Healthcare Through Digital Patient Engagement – Edited by Jan Oldenburg, Dave Chase, Kate T. Christensen, MD, and Brad Tritle, CIPP
- Let Patients Help! E-Patient Dave deBronkart
What other tools are you using to engage patients?