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Patient Engagement Goals Not A Good Fit With Tech Investment Ideas

Posted on December 17, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

A new survey has found that while most healthcare organizations take patient engagement seriously, few are satisfied with the state of their efforts. On top of that, the results suggest that their patient engagement goals and expectations for such technology aren’t aligned very well, which can’t be helping matters.

CipherHealth and Modern Healthcare recently surveyed 217 healthcare leaders to find out more about the current state of their patient engagement strategies. One of the survey’s key conclusions was that more than 80% of respondents saw patient engagement is a high priority for their organization.

According to the researchers, this comes as part of a larger trend in which hospitals are working to partner with ambulatory and post-acute-care partners to conquer value-based care obstacles. Hospitals and health systems are concluding that their patient engagement strategy must extend outside of the inpatient setting to across their entire care delivery network, the research sponsors suggest.

Despite the importance they’re assigning to patient engagement, just 20% of respondents reported being satisfied with their current patient engagement programs. They said the key barriers to patient engagement success included staffing, technology and human resources which, as the researchers point out, are largely cost issues.

However, technology spending in particular could yield results, the survey suggests. More than two thirds (69%) of survey respondents said that they could improve outcomes of the investment in better patient engagement technology. (Side note: it is worth bearing in mind that co-sponsor CipherHealth sells patient engagement technology, though this doesn’t make the conclusion wrong in and of itself.)

According to the survey, features health leaders look for when investing in patient engagement platforms include demonstrable outcomes (67%), ability to deploy across the care continuum (56%), the capacity to communicate across multiple channels including calling, text, and email (52%) and EMR integration (50%).

Meanwhile, almost every respondent (94%) reported that one of the key goals of their patient engagement strategy was improving their HCAHPS scores, followed by 66% citing impact on patient outcomes and 65% readmission reductions as key performance indicators. Are the above features a good fit with these goals? I’ve more to say on this below.

To achieve these improvements, one of the best places to focus is on care transitions, the healthcare leaders reported. Eighty-three percent of respondents said post-discharge follow-up was an important element of their patient engagement strategy, followed by appointment scheduling/reminders (76%), rounding on patients (74%), care management (84%), screenings and preventive health outreach (65%), patient portals (62%) and bedside education and entertainment (53%).

I don’t know about you, but it’s not clear to me that providers and vendors in the space are speaking the same language. In particular, providers are divided in what they’re measuring when it comes to patient engagement. The survey results suggest that healthcare organizations are still experimenting with how to keep moving patient satisfaction scores up — and that that there’s some meaningful disagreement as to what really matters when it comes to deploying such strategies.

The real questions are, do we really know what IT tools we need to take patient engagement to the next level, and is there any proof that these assumptions are based on fact? I think health IT execs might need more evidence of what works before making big investments in patient engagement technologies. How about you?

#HIMSS18 First Day:  A Haze Of Uncertainty

Posted on March 7, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Entering the HIMSS exhibit area always feels like walking straight into a hurricane. But if you know how to navigate the show, things usually start to come into focus.

There’s a bunch of young, scrappy and hungry startups clustered in a hive, a second tier of more-established but still emerging ventures and a scattering of non-healthcare contenders hoping to crack the market. And of course, there are the dream places put in place by usual suspects like Accenture, SAP and Citrix. (I also stumbled across a large data analytics company, the curiously-named splunk> — I kid you not – whose pillars of data-like moving color squares might have been the most spectacular display on the floor.)

The point I’m trying to make here is that as immense and overwhelming as a show like HIMSS can be, there’s a certain order amongst the chaos. And I usually leave with an idea of which technologies are on the ascendance, and which seem the closest to practical deployment. This time, not so much.

I may have missed something, but my sense on first glance that I was surrounded by solutions that were immature, off-target or backed by companies trying to be all things to all people. Also, surprisingly few even spoke the word “doctor” when describing their product.

For example, a smallish HIT company probably can’t address IoT, population health, social determinants data and care coordination in one swell foop, but I ran into more than one that was trying to do something like this.

All told, I came away with a feeling that many vendors are trapped in a haze of uncertainty right now. To be fair, I understand why. Most are trying to build solutions without knowing the answers to some important questions.

What are the best uses of blockchain, if any? What role should AI play in data analytics, care management and patient interaction? How do we best define population health management? How should much-needed care coordination technologies be architected, and how will they fit into physician workflow?

Yes, I know that vendors’ job is to sort these things like these out and solve the problems effectively. But this year, many seem to be struggling far more than usual.

Meanwhile, I should note that there seems to be a mismatch between what vendors showed up and what providers say that they want. Why so few vendors focused on RCM or cybersecurity, for example? I know that to some extent, HIMSS is about emerging tech rather than existing solutions, but the gap between practical and emerging solutions seemed larger than usual.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m learning a lot here. The wonderful buzz of excited conversations in the hall is as intense as always. And the show is epic and entertaining as always. Let’s hope that next year, the fog has cleared.