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What the Folks at Cleveland Clinic Understand About Patient Engagement That Is Revolutionary

January 25, 2014
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Lori Posk, M.D. and her colleagues at Cleveland Clinic have figured out the secret to successful patient engagement—on a broad scale

Lori Posk, M.D., presenting in San Diego

It was great to attend the session at the Health IT Summit in San Diego this week in which Lori Posk, M.D., the medical director of the patient portal at Cleveland Clinic, shared the lessons learned so far by herself and her colleagues, as they pursue what is arguably one of the very most ambitious patient portal initiatives in the country right now.

Over the past several years, Dr. Posk and her colleagues have steadily ramped up the functionality of their MyChart patient portal (connected to their core Epic electronic health record), adding different sorts of automated releases of test results into their version of My Chart, culminating in their enabling the automated release of ambulatory physician progress notes last November. This is very, very important: nearly half a million patients are now receiving their physicians’ progress notes in their personal health records, delivered in an automated way. It of course more than satisfies requirements for patient engagement under the terms of Stage 2 of the meaningful use program.

Even more importantly, the advances being made in the MyChart initiative at Cleveland Clinic reflect a broad push towards total engagement—of patients, clinicians, and staff—at the organization, one driven by the desire to truly make patients part of the care team. As Dr. Posk had told me in an interview at the beginning of the month, “I believe that partnering more with our patients to get involved with their care will only lead to better quality and outcomes. And I can say that my perceptions have for the most part been validated; the world has not fallen down.”

It was interesting to see that most of the questions asked by audience members this week in San Diego had to do with the fears and concerns of clinicians and IT people around release of information to patients; yet in fact, there have been very, very few issues of dissatisfaction on the part of either patients or providers, as Posk duly noted.

The reality is that what Dr. Posk and her colleagues are doing at Cleveland Clinic offers a workable model for countless patient care organizations, when it comes to patient engagement on an integrated health system-wide scale.  To begin with, they’ve been soliciting input and feedback from physicians, nurses, health information management professionals, and others, from the beginning; have been educating physicians and other clinicians as to what they’re trying to accomplish; have been steadily educating patients, in order to achieve understanding, buy-in, and enthusiasm; and they’ve made adjustments that take into account clinician needs and preferences, as well as an understanding of patient needs.

Fundamentally, as Lori Posk pointed out in her session at the San Diego conference, the information we’re talking about here really is owned by patients; it’s their information. And that acknowledgement, on the part of Cleveland Clinic clinicians and informaticists, makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

So, as they say, “watch this space,” because what the folks at Cleveland Clinic are doing is highly replicable, scalable, and doable. And as organizations like theirs light the way, it’s inevitable that they will help provide templates for everyone else in U.S. healthcare. And, when it comes to patient engagement in particular, that must be reckoned to be a very good thing.