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5 Steps to Patient Engagement, a NeHC Framework is Created

November 19, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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The framework aims to give providers a patient engaement road map

The National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC) has released the patient engagement framework, a five-step model that will attempt to help providers, payers, and other healthcare entities on the path to engaging patients. A few of the stakeholders who helped develop this newly created framework recently discussed the tool on a NeHC-sponsored webinar.

Jeff Donnell, president of NoMoreClipboard, a personal health record (PHR) vendor, said the framework was created to bring a natural road map to an area that has become like “the wild west.” Donnell mentioned how payers, providers, and other healthcare organizations interested in patient engagement want to go from a “crawl to a sprint” rather than a natural progression. This framework, he said, “will bring law and order to a chaotic space.”

“The framework represents a journey,” Donnell said.

The five steps or phases to engagement that make up the framework include “inform me,” “engage me,” “empower me,” “partner with me,” and “support my e-community.” According to Leslie Kelly Hall, NeHC board member and one of the leaders of the framework’s development committee, and senior vice president of policy for Healthwise, the steps were created in a way that allows for a natural progression of engagement for providers.

The first step, “inform me,” Hall said, is about attracting new patients with various electronic patient education information sources. It leads into the next step, “engage me,” which is about attracting those patients and then retaining them. This means providing them with patient specific education and access to their records through such devices as the Blue Button (made famous by the Department of Veterans Affairs).

According to Hall, the third step, “empower me,” is about retaining those patients and then partnering with them to create efficiencies. She says that this step represents the “shifting of power” from the provider to the patient. This includes allowing patients to view, download, and transmit (VDT) their record in an interoperable environment. She used examples from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Iora Health.

The fourth step is the natural progression from a patient perspective, Hall said. It involves creating synergies with interoperable records in multiple care environments. The last step, “support my e-community,” is essentially the final step in the map, an environment where “the patient defines their community,” he said. Thanks to health IT, through interoperable health records, a patient can interact and engage with their healthcare in multiple environments in multiple ways.

The full patient engagement framework is available here:

What’s important for providers, payers, vendors, and anyone else involved with the business of patient engagement is that the framework “won’t stifle innovation,” Donnell said. Rather, it gives these stakeholders a constructed set of guidelines and a common language to work off, he added.

Donnell gave a few examples of products and pilots where patients have successfully been engaged. In one example, researchers at the Howard University Diabetes Center were able to lower blood glucose levels (and consequently ER visits and readmission rates) in diabetes patients through a mobile PHR. In an effort to curb the fears of many providers, he said there have been examples where older patients have used PHRs just as much as teenagers and young people.

Eva Powell, director of health information technology programs at the National Partnership for Women and Families, said the framework shows how patient engagement “goes beyond that initial step.” She stressed the importance of engagement in multiple levels such as care, redesign, governance, and in communities. All three speakers, as well as NeHC CEO Kate Berry, said they believed the framework would help providers progress their way to fully effective, collaborative patient engagement.