Leverage patient engagement through better EHR, population management use

Regardless of what technology physicians may use, the ultimate goal for doctors is to improve patient quality of care. The recent widespread implementation of electronic health record systems due to meaningful use incentives has done much to win doctors over to the side of administrative technologies. With the right analytics and security protocols, these stores of patient data can be very powerful medicinal tools.

However, the more patients a physician sees, the more information will inevitably be kept in an EHR system. Before long, this cache could easily become an inert collection of once-significant information. To deliver the best care possible, physicians and other health care professionals should constantly strive to look at patient information in EHR systems in new and dynamic ways. One such way that could lead to higher rates of patient engagement is population health management, a popular analytical method that uses the data of the whole community to better serve the individual patient.

Examining population management
With so many individual patients to see, it can be difficult at times for physicians who tend to get lost in the personal details of the people they treat. The recent trend of smartphones and tablet-based EHR use among physicians has led to less face-to-face time during hospital visits, yet in some cases, a bird's-eye view of the patient landscape can offer a fresh perspective on ways to improve patient outcomes.

According to Information Week, an analytical software suite on top of a new EHR system may be the best way to find out more about patients by investigating the communities that they live in. Catholic Health Partners, an Ohio-based provider network, explained that patients must be treated effectively above all else, but analyzing their data can find hidden trends and techniques to coerce them into keeping to treatment plans.

"Once you say you're responsible for this population of patients with all their chronic conditions, if they don't come in it's your responsibility to get them to come in," J.D. Whitlock, director of clinical and business intelligence at CHP, told Information Week. "It's a matter of reaching out to the right patient at the right time with the right information."

Whitlock explained that certain patient populations may require tailored approaches. For example, communities of certain ethnicities may show higher rates of diabetes or high blood pressure. Whitlock believes that it is the physician's responsibility to search through EHR systems to glean a complete picture of the patients that a doctor serves. Once doctors have a full picture of the community they serve, they can more accurately engage patients in meaningful ways to ensure their individual well-beings.

Managing patient populations
A dedicated patient population management software suite or department may be the very solution to the problem of an obtuse patient community. According to Hospitals & Health Networks magazine, a simple registry of patients' personal details may be enough of a start for physicians to begin seeing hidden health details.

"Registries are absolutely critical to population management and doing it right," Donald Caruso, M.D., medical director of New Hampshire-based Cheshire Medical Center, told H&HN. "Electronic records only take you so far without having that data flow into a registry, and then being able to risk-stratify that population."

Caruso argued that by linking health information to personal details, registries may prove instrumental for physicians who want to gain a more complete picture of the patients they serve. Without a dedicated population health management system supplementing the already impressive power of an EHR program, health care professionals may be missing out on critical trends beneath the surface of the data.