Patients Will Be More Involved in Their Care
With more information in their hands because of meaningful use, and more data available to physicians at the time of a visit, patients are going to be more involved in health care decisions, experts said at HIMSS. One way meaningful use rules address this is by granting patients access to medical records, including diagnostic results, problem lists and medication lists.
Many practices and hospitals already provide this access through patient portals, many of which combine data with patient education tools. Some of these organizations offered a glimpse of what other practices can expect when the physician-patient relationship is changed by technology.
On average, elderly, chronically ill patients see 14 physicians.
Michael Solomon, PhD, is practice lead of eCare Management at the Coral Springs, Fla.-based health information technology consulting firm Point-of-Care Partners. He and researchers from the Carolinas Healthcare System conducted a 12-week controlled randomized study of 220 patients using the portal offered to patients of Carolinas Physician Network, a large medical group operated by CHS. They analyzed the effectiveness of the portal to engage patients and affect patient outcomes.
"If we expect the patient to play a critical role in a patient-centered approach to care, then we need to measure the effect of care intervention on a patient's level of engagement -- that is, how activated they are in their own health care," Solomon said. The group found that the more patients used the portal, the more engaged they were in their health care.
For Miramont Family Medicine, a family medicine practice in Fort Collins, Colo., adopting an EMR meant that patient visits were more meaningful because of the information available and collected at the time of visit. John Bender, MD, a family physician at Miramont, said "value-added time" -- time patients actually spend with doctors as opposed to sitting in waiting rooms -- improved from 64% to 67% after implementation.
"Now that doesn't sound large," he said, "But a 3 [percentage point] improvement across all 10,000 patients we were seeing at the time -- that's huge."
Dr. Bender said this was especially significant, given that the average appointment time increased from 41 to 51 minutes after going electronic. Doctors are documenting several metrics they weren't documenting before, and patients "are getting a lot more time per visit with the physician."