Events, Health IT, Hospitals

What are the key elements of digital patient engagement?

At MedCity ENGAGE on November 7, leaders from Dignity Health and UC San Diego Health discussed challenges to IT adoption as well as how technology can benefit patients and clinicians.

technology, tech, IT, health IT, information technology

Successfully engaging patients is about more than showing support during in-person visits at the hospital. In today’s digital age, engagement also encompasses connecting with patients using the latest technologies.

During a November 7 MedCity ENGAGE panel moderated by McKinsey associate partner Deepali Narula, leaders from two hospitals discussed how their organizations are leveraging IT to craft a better patient experience.

Kelly Summers, Dignity Health’s senior director of digital transformation, said her organization sees its digital endeavors as a clinical engagement initiative.

“We really look at this as a way to educate and inform our patients,” she said.

Patient portals and health records aren’t the only tech gadgets that help systems interact with patients. Summers said Dignity Health harnesses a wayfinding tool, text communication, video visits and digital therapeutics. It also has a pregnancy app called My Baby that allows users to track milestones, pinpoint symptoms and connect to services such as nurse support.

It’s important to find digitally-driven methods of engaging patients. But healthcare entities also want to ensure consumers change their behaviors.

Dr. Christopher Longhurst, another panelist and the CIO of UC San Diego Health, believes behavioral change will occur via nudges. Though the industry is still nascent in that area, Longhurst said large integrated health systems are well-positioned to push the adoption of such behavioral nudges.

In addition to impacting patients, IT utilization can affect clinicians and their sense of well-being.

“Engaging your patients digitally can help with the Quadruple Aim,” said Longhurst. The Quadruple Aim adds a fourth element — provider satisfaction — to the Triple Aim of safer care, improved population health and lower costs.

Naturally, there are operational challenges to overcome on the way to tech adoption. Summers pointed to time, resources and money as a few hurdles, but noted that not everything is extremely pricey.

“The assumption is that everything you integrate in healthcare is going to be expensive. It’s not,” she said.

Longhurst added a fourth difficulty to the list.

“Time, money and resources are always a challenge,” he said. “When engaging our patients digitally, the number one barrier is none of those three. It’s actually culture.”

Notably, Dignity Health and UC San Diego Health are both piloting Apple’s Health Records feature. Longhurst said it gave him a little deja vu about Google’s failed foray into medical records. What’s different with Apple? FHIR has something to do with it, as does Apple having an existing ecosystem of developers, Longhurst said.

Photo: coffeekai, Getty Images