By Erin Isselmann, global communications for Xerox Healthcare Services

This might describe you: Patients want to be active participants in their own care. They want to make decisions based on real-time information and results. And access to their providers outside of a scheduled appointment is more than convenient, it’s a requirement.

Welcome to the evolving world of patient engagement. This level of involvement from a patient (or the patient’s family) is a top indicator of a good healthcare outcome. The question is: How do we get there?

In this Q&A, we discuss the need for providers to be catalysts; how to bring about a new approach to patient engagement; and examples of hospitals that already get it right. Our participants are:

  • Tamara StClaire, chief innovation officer, Xerox Commercial Healthcare
  • Heather Haugen, CEO and managing director, The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company
Tamara St. Claire, chief innovation officer, Commercial Healthcare for Xerox

Tamara StClaire, chief innovation officer, Commercial Healthcare for Xerox

How must the role of healthcare providers change in the next five years in order to increase patient engagement?

Tamara StClaire: I hope, in five years, providers will broaden the focus around patient engagement beyond just fulfilling Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements. True collaboration means helping patients gain healthcare literacy.

We now understand that patients who are engaged have better clinical outcomes. For example, the Millennial generation wants to view personalized recommendations to improve their health via an online patient portal. Baby Boomers account for the highest percentage of any age group, and they say they already do (or would) communicate with healthcare providers via a portal.[1] This is an opportunity for providers to use a mix of technology and services to tailor the appropriate engagement programs for their patients.

Haugen, Heather 1

Heather Haugen, CEO and managing director, The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company

Heather Haugen: As our payment models move toward payment for value, providers are starting to engage patients differently when managing chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma. This type of care will happen beyond the walls of the physician’s practice. We’ll see an increase in the use of remote monitoring tools. We’ll also see a new focus on engaging the family and caregivers, rather than just the patient.

Communication, planning and coordination with family is a strong indicator of overall patient engagement. The care process impacts the patient’s support system, so the family must be considered in the patient engagement equation. I also think the next generation patient portals will be more intuitive and interactive.

Can you share examples of ways hospitals have successfully changed their approach to patient engagement?

Tamara StClaire: I admire an initiative the Cleveland Clinic began several years ago. It allows patients to enter data and outcomes into their own records. This information becomes part of the clinical workflow, enabling doctors to track their patients’ progress, and potentially modify their care between visits. I’ve also seen some health networks take a very proactive approach to encouraging as many patients as possible to use the portal, including signage, mobile technology, and suggesting alternate ways to log on to the portal for those who don’t have Internet access at home.

Heather Haugen: The University of Colorado shares all test results real-time. For inpatients, and patients undergoing tests for illnesses like cancer, this level of access is important. Kaiser Permanente has focused on patient engagement for years. They offer patients the options to communicate with their providers via email, make appointments online, participate and sign up for clinical trials, and more through online tools.

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[1] A Study about Medical Records, Harris Poll on behalf of Xerox, September 2014