How Data Transparency Leads to Better Patient Engagement
“I feel like I’m invisible to the provider when they’re looking at the computerized chart. I would like them to sit with me, and together we face that computer, and they show me what they are seeing and reading,” said a patient, when asked about the impact of EHRs on medical visits.
Advancements in technology have led to an exponential growth in the amount and quality of patient information captured by healthcare providers, and how they share it. Care coordination tools have made it easier for doctors to share patient data with each other. But, while providers are collecting and sharing more information with each other than ever before, too often, patients are disconnected from the data stream.
Today’s patients are more digitally connected than ever, and want to be an active part of their own medical processes. To bring patients in, providers can share data to increase patient engagement and enhance patient outcomes.
Only one in five patients that have access to EHRs use them to make health decisions, according to a survey conducted by HealthMine. While this is an increase from previous years, the number remains low, not for lack of desire to look at the data, but rather a lack of understanding of what the data mean. By now, providers, and also most patients, know that HIPAA laws require providers to make patients’ history available to them. However, just making records available has proven to be insufficient as a means of creating true patient-provider collaboration. When it comes to getting patients involved in their care, seeing the data is not enough – it needs to be translated.
It’s well known that more engaged patients are healthier patients. And meaningful data that patients understand can be powerful tools to bring them into productive dialogue, and action, with healthcare professionals concerning their condition, potential treatment plans, and desired outcomes.
For patients with chronic illnesses, and other complex conditions, this can be particularly empowering and effective. In an example highlighted by Diabetes Journal, a patient acknowledged that after her doctor showed her the correlation between her cholesterol levels and weight fluctuations, she was motivated to change unhealthy lifestyle habits. Interpreting data for and with patients empowers them to act and make decisions that improve their outcomes.
In healthcare, there are few free, easy, and quick solutions that increase patient engagement and make dramatic improvements. However, turning a computer monitor around to speak with patients about their data may just be such a solution. Data points give providers the opportunity to bring patients into their care process and make them a true partner. So, as we champion for better data that leads to better care coordination, let’s not forget to turn the screen and share it with the ones receiving the care.