Many healthcare organizations are optimizing their existing IT investments by reducing waste and adding functionality to their systems. But before you begin your system optimization program, have you considered what role your patients will play in the process? Patients, after all, are the most important stakeholders in the healthcare system, although their role is often overlooked in a landscape dominated by government agencies such as CMS, commercial insurance payors, quality organizations, and politically strong provider organizations.
As you determine the planned areas for optimization and improvement, consider what your patients will require from your IT system. In different markets with different demographics, patients require varying levels of sophistication from their healthcare provider in terms of technology engagement. While a majority of patients in San Francisco might expect the latest and greatest technology, patients in a more rural area might not be ready to use online scheduling or bill pay.
Of course, there are already quite a few external forces affecting your optimization effort even before considering patient requirements – Stage 2 of meaningful use, ACO formation, physician requests, and patient-centered medical home accreditation all impact numerous work flows relating to the EHR. These requirements alone are enough to keep IT departments busy and optimization efforts jam-packed.
Meanwhile, patients are becoming more selective about their choice of local healthcare provider with the help of HCAPS patient satisfaction scores, social media, and increased competition between organizations. Incorporating their requirements into your optimization plan is paramount to staying competitive. Reaching out to patients through social media can be a great way to receive feedback on your existing IT systems and planned functionality changes. Even the IT department by itself can engage patients by creating a focus group or forming a patient input panel with community leaders and patients.
Many optimization programs add functionality for patients to use, including secure messaging, online refill requests, and self-scheduling. How will you market these tools to your patients, and how will you engage them in their continued use? Meaningful use Stage 2 for eligible professionals requires that at least 5% of patients use secure messaging and that 5% of patients download or transmit their health information to a third party. Simply turning these functionalities on is not enough – patients need to be educated on their use.
Deciding to optimize your EHR is an important step in improving the overall use and satisfaction of your organization, but don’t make the mistake of leaving out the most important stakeholder in your decision-making process – your patients.