Posted by:Richard Smith April 2nd, 2014

Engage! This is the current healthcare buzzword. Without a doubt, patient engagement is one of the most important trends in healthcare and health IT right now. Everyone agrees that it’s a good thing, and that providers should make every attempt to foster it. But how? The answer will depend on what meaning one derives out of it.

So what is meant by “Patient Engagement?”

This hot buzz phrase may be crudely defined as involving patients in their care. A more formal definition of the same would be the patient’s knowledge, skills, ability, and willingness to manage his or her own health and care which can promote positive patient behavior, such as obtaining preventive care or exercising regularly.

There are two significant drivers of the “Patient Engagement” concept

  • the MU program which is beginning to include requirements for very basic patient engagement services
  • the rise of accountable care models and payment reforms. Under the accountable care models, the provider payment is based on outcomes, rather than fees for services rendered.

Therefore compliance to MU regulations as well as accountable care requirements, requires that the providers must engage patients in their own health.

A lot has been said about the emerging mobile technologies holding enormous promise for healthcare. Of particular interest is the apparent potential mHealth holds in the area of “Patient Engagement”.

The main attributes that makes mobility the sought after driver of bringing about successful patient participation in their own health treatment are:

  • Availability: Mobile devices offer anytime anywhere access to data as critical decisions are being made
  • Awareness: Mobile technology has the ability to identify the user’s location, social setting and recent activity to provide context for decision-making
  • Data collection: Mobile devices can easily collect data through cameras, accelerometers and microphones
  • Real-time feedback: Mobile technology can provide instant positive reinforcement for healthy decisions and actions

Some of the advantages that mobile technology offers in the context of Patient engagement are below:

Health Education: Healthcare providers are becoming increasingly busy making it more difficult than ever to connect with patients. Mobile devices and health apps can be highly instrumental in educating patients and thereby keeping them engaged about their ongoing disease management.

Medication Adherence: Mobile technology can go a long way in improving adherence to complex drug regimens.

Behavior modifications: Patients often need ongoing motivation when trying to lose weight or quit smoking. Constant reminders accessible through mobile devices and leveraging online social communities can work wonders in significantly boosting levels of motivation.

mHealth holds huge untapped potential in the Patient engagement arena. Responses from patients and getting them to take action, no matter how small, is what mHealth programs should strive for. By harnessing the attention people pay to their mobile phones, mHealth technology should be able to bring the control on their health right into the palms of the patients.  And mind you, once this ride begins there is no turning back!

How do you think caregivers are harnessing the true potential of mobile technology today? Leave your thoughts below.

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