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2013: The Year of Patient Engagement Innovations

January 5, 2013
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Pioneering providers make patients and their families members of the care team

Last year as we began writing technology trend features looking ahead to 2012, I interviewed several experts on patient engagement.

They noted that while there is more focus than ever on patient engagement and some real federal dollars behind it, the cultural hurdles are difficult to overcome.

Patricia Flatley Brennan, a professor of nursing and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, heads up Project HealthDesign, a national research effort to explore ways to capture and integrate patient-recorded observations into clinical care. For that 2012 story, she noted that there hadn’t been much demand from the provider side yet. “There is this delightful tension between what technology enables and social change,” she told me. “The jury is still out on this.”

With Stage 2 of meaningful use raising the bar in terms of how and when hospitals and physician groups must make patient data available, I am hoping that 2013 is the year of patient engagement innovation — that is, when more pioneering providers go beyond making records of office visits, tests and medications available to working with patients and their families as members of the care team.

I came across one example recently here in Philadelphia. At the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), informatics researchers have modified the hospital’s MyChart portal to expand its capabilities.

According to an article in CHOP’s annual report, a “Shared Decision- Making Portal for Pediatric Chronic Illness” works with Children’s Hospital’s new MyChart patient site, which is currently being rolled out to the entire CHOP network. Families can use MyChart to request appointments, view test results, and access health summaries and growth charts.

The pilot version of the shared decision-making effort is focused on asthma. The portal allows parents to fill out monthly symptom and care surveys, which can help free up time in the examination room. The system will send families regular reminders to fill out these care surveys, and through the portal doctors will be able to see detailed timelines of how their patients are progressing. The portal also contains a library of educational materials about asthma, the report notes, including videos, materials geared toward children, and literature on symptom triggers such as cigarette smoke and dust mites.

Another such innovation is the OpenNotes project, which involves Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, and Harborview Medical Center, a county hospital and safety net provider in Seattle. Patients are invited to read the notes written by their primary care physicians following office visits. They are able to view these notes via the portals where other portions of their medical records are posted.

Here’s hoping we will see more examples of innovation in patient engagement this year.



If health information technology were all that was needed to "engage" patients then  patient and member adoption rates of provider and payer web portals offering Personal Health Records (PHRs) and Electronic Health Records (EHRs) would not still be hovering around a disappointing 7% (with  several notable exceptions Kaiser, Group Health and the VA).*

For more check out the post "Patient Engagement Is A Physician-Patient Communication Challenge...Not A Health Information Technology Challenge" at

Steve Wilkins,MPH