Did you know issues relating to medication adherence cost the economy $300 billion? Even worse is that this issue alone is one of the primary causes for patients being readmitted to medical facilities. On the upside, however, a large percentage of physicians have adopted the use of basic electronic health records. This has helped reduce medication adherence issues. Let’s take a quick look at ways electronic health records (EHRs) improve patient engagement and improve patient care.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), conducted a study in 2015 and discovered 40 percent of patients were being offered access to their health records via an electronic method. Much of this access has been made available thanks to EHR portals. Patients can simply log into the portals, type in personal identification information and then access various parts of their records, such as physician notes, lab results, and more. In being able to do this, these patients become much more engaged in their health.
Frank Maselli, MD, a physician based out of New York City, states that since his office made the switch to EHRs in 2001, he has noticed a plethora of benefits, including:
- Reduced patient phone calls
- Decreased postal expenses
- Enhanced in-house workflows thanks to streamlined processes
Some of the top tasks his patients are able to accomplish through EHR portals include:
- Viewing clinical information
- Paying bills
- Ask for referrals
- Asking for prescription refills
- Scheduling appointments
As of 2017, 70 percent of physicians testify to the fact that patient engagement is a primary priority for their medical offices. The year prior, this priority was in place for only 60 percent of physicians. Why are we seeing such an increase? Perhaps it is because access to EHRs improves patient engagement, and many studies have revealed that the higher the rate of patient engagement, the higher the rate of favorable outcomes.
Patient engagement is also being increased via EHRs because their accompanying portals allow patients to securely send and receive confidential emails. If a patient has a question about a suggestion made by the physician during an office visit, the patient can log into the EHR portal and send a secure email outlining his or her question. The physician can then respond in a timely manner, all without ever having to make a phone call.
We are also seeing an increase in patient engagement thanks to patient education that takes place via EHR portals. Patients can log into the portals and review pertinent information relating to their prescriptions, including dosage recommendations, harmful drug interactions, and much more. Another neat aspect of patient education via EHR portals is that it can be provided during the actual office visit. A physician can log into the system and print out educational material that is linked to specific diagnoses. Being able to send the patient away with such valuable educational material is an excellent way to improve patient engagement.
As technology continues to become more advanced, so will patient engagement. In fact, experts are already vocalizing the need to improve engagement strategies in order to stay in line with advanced technology capabilities. 64 percent of patients agree they prefer to provide their providers with real-time health data to enhance their overall health. This means physicians need to have in place an EHR system that allows for real-time data to be collected, stored, and easily accessed at any time of the day or night.
As EHR systems become more advanced, we expect them to sync with wearable devices that provide real-time health data. And when such data is combined with advanced algorithms, physicians are going to get much better at spotting trends and anomalies, which will be a powerful contributor to improved patient outcomes.