Using Health IT to Improve the Health Care Experience

Overview: How Health IT Can Improve Your Health Care Experience

Health IT Stories: Take Dave deBronkart’s word for it, along with the stories of many others who have been helped by health IT.

Health care practices across the country are seeing the benefits of health information technology (IT) implementation on patient engagement in the form of better patient outcomes and lower costs. The rewards are real:

  • More informed, better involved patients
  • More effective, safer delivery of care
  • Increased efficiencies for practice staff

Health care consumers and/or patients will most likely experience health IT in their office visits through their provider’s EHR. The EHR is an electronic version of the old paper chart.

Patients and consumers may also interact with health IT through new and innovative technologies like telehealth and wearable devices like a Fitbit or Apple watch. These technologies are developing quickly and bring more information and convenience to accessing and improving health.

For more information on using different kinds of health IT, continue reading this page.

Source: ONC, Patient Engagement Playbook

Strategies for Using Health IT

This section of the website introduces several tools for health care consumers and professionals to leverage health IT. Read below to learn four strategies for making better decisions with better information:

Strategy 1: Get access to records online.

Read the tips below, according to your perspective, for increasing portal access:

Health Care Consumer Perspective

A medical record is a collection of information about an individual’s health condition and the health care they receive.

Individuals can use health IT to take control of their health by accessing their medical record electronically. Eight in 10 individuals who accessed their medical record online considered the information useful!

Get started today using the steps below:

  • Looking for a new health care provider? Ask if he or she has an EHR—you are likely to get more coordinated care.
  • Ask for instruction to access your records online through a patient portal and signup for access.
  • Log in to the patient portal and check to make sure your information is correct. Your health record should include the following information:
    • Doctor’s name and number
    • Your personal information
    • Medications
    • Tests
    • Health reminders
    • Health summaries (allergies, immunizations, diagnoses)
    • Notes for any care plans
  • Know that you have the right to add missing information or correct errors.
  • If you have multiple providers with different portals, download your records and set up your own personal health record. Compiling your health records means you can better manage health goals.

Source: ONC, Health IT: Advancing America's Health Care (PDF)

Additional Resources:

Health Care Professional Perspective

One interesting issue about patient portal access is that patients often report not enrolling because they lack information or motivation or question the value.

Providers will be interested to know that when patients actually use portals, they are 2.6 times more likely to choose to stay a patient of a practice. Clearly, it is in the best interest of both patients and practices to increase portal access and use.

So how do you create change? Evidence shows patients are more likely to access their portal when clinicians and staff incorporate touch points in workflows to demonstrate and discuss the value of portal use.

Statistics point to in-office registration as the most effective opportunity to enroll patients and have them signin to their records. Best practices from the field suggest the most effective strategies include getting all clinicians and staff to buy in to using every office visit to promote the value of your patient portal and nudging patients to make follow-up appointments, stay on top of recommended screenings, or request refills online.

We encourage you to tailor this approach for getting patients enrolled in—and using—patient portals to fit your practice.

Source: ONC, Patient Engagement Playbook

Additional Resources:

Strategy 2: Explore additional tools that meet your needs.

Read the tips below, according to your perspective, for how to use health IT to interact and educate:

Health Care Consumer Perspective

Most practices have patient portals that have great features to help individuals address information gaps and manage their health.

Join others who have accessed their medical records online and found it useful.

  • Almost 75 percent used online records to help monitor their health.
  • Over a third have downloaded or shared their health information with someone else, such as a provider or caregiver.

Save time and get the information you need when and where you need it by using these suggestions to access the full power of your patient portal:

  • Next time you get a prescription, ask your health care provider if he or she uses electronic prescribing—it makes your life easier. This feature may also be used request refills.
  • Next time you get a test, ask your health care provider if he or she can share lab results online—it can make getting results faster, and they can be read in context with your provider’s notes.
  • At your next health care visit, ask your provider to have a summary of the office visit with related educational materials sent to you electronically and securely to help you keep track of your information.
  • The next time you have a change in your health condition, share your records with other providers or family members.
  • Schedule appointments and review and pay bills.

Source: ONC, Health Information Technology Factsheet (PDF)

Additional Resources:

Health Care Professional Perspective

Online access to health information can be an effective tool for saving your practice time and resources, as well as meeting patient needs.

Individuals report retrieving their health information online to address information gaps and manage their health. Over a third of individuals have downloaded or shared their health information with someone else, such as a provider or caregiver, in the past year.

The outcome of empowering health care consumers with online access to health information is engaged patients and better coordinated care.

A best practice is to enable functionality that allows patients to do the following tasks electronically:

  • Refill prescriptions
  • Access lab results with contextualized patient education resources
  • Handle administrative tasks, like booking appointments
  • Support electronic records requests to better manage care
  • Aggregate data from multiple sources using application program interfaces (APIs)

Source: ONC, Patient Engagement Playbook

Additional Resources:

Strategy 3: Use secure messaging and notes to communicate.

Read the tips below, according to your perspective, for expanding clear and convenient patient-provider communications:

Health Care Consumer Perspective

Importantly, health IT can be used as a tool to remove barriers to patient-provider communication between visits.

  • Use secure electronic messaging to ask a question about a provider’s instructions or a medication.
  • Read your provider’s shared notes online to contextualize lab results or understand her guidance on a medication in more detail.

Secure messaging and shared notes are two patient portal features you can use to stay engaged in your care and make care coordination and communication more convenient, efficient, and effective.

By using secure messaging to connect with your health care provider and reading notes available in your patient portal, you can work with your provider between visits to give needed attention to routine health issues, better monitor conditions with educational resources, or improve a transition of care to a specialist.

Here are some important steps:

  • Ask your provider if he or she can be contacted with secure messaging. If so, ask him or her if there are any resources for learning how to best use the feature and what to expect when using it.
  • Ask your provider if he or she will integrate shared notes into you care summary or lab results. If so, try to learn what to expect to see in the notes.

Source: ONC, Patient Engagement Playbook

Additional Resources:
ONC, Maintain Your Medical Record

Health Care Professional Perspective

Importantly, health IT can be used as a tool to remove barriers to patient-provider communication between visits.

  • Patients may have questions about a provider’s instructions or a medication.
  • Providers may need to share their notes to contextualize lab results or simply explain their guidance in more detail.

By enabling secure messaging and online notes, practices help patients and providers work together to call attention to routine health issues, better monitor conditions with educational resources, and improve a transition of care to a specialist.

  • Best practices promote enabling secure messages and using shared notes to improve and streamline patient-provider communication and workflow.
  • Secure messaging can reduce time-consuming phone calls (and the need for some face-to-face visits) by giving patients and providers a quick, convenient way to exchange information.
  • When practices integrate email into their workflow, providers often find communicating with patients more convenient and less time consuming.
  • Explain to patients what they can expect to see in the notes, and keep the notes focused on one topic—such as promoting medication adherence or improving patients' understanding of their health conditions.
  • Reference educational materials whenever possible.

Source: ONC, Patient Engagement Playbook

Additional Resource:
ONC, Secure Electronic Messaging Factsheet (PDF)

Strategy 4: Find out more about how telehealth is used.

Read the tips below, according to your perspective, for using remote delivery of health care services and capturing and integrating nonclinical data into a health record:

Health Care Consumer Perspective

What is telehealth and mHealth?

  • Telehealth services are provided from a remote location through a combination of interactive video, audio, and/or externally acquired images between a provider and a patient.
  • One domain of telehealth is mHealth: when telehealth services are delivered using your cell phone or tablet.
  • mHealth also describes a set of tools, including smartphone apps that create “patient-generated health data,” which can be used to set, monitor, and meet your own health goals.

By not having to worry about the cost and time of transportation, telehealth services can provide extraordinary convenience. These services can also be as useful as a face-to-face office visit (if supported by sufficient audio and visual fidelity and clarity).

When individuals have the power to capture, record, and share health data with friends using social media, why not share with your health care provider too? Examples include smart blood glucose or blood pressure monitors or exercise and diet tracking using a smartphone app.

Where can patients get access to telehealth services? Patients should ask their health care provider about telehealth services that are already available and mHealth products they believe would help promote wellness. In many cases, the provider may have an existing home health monitoring program or other telehealth services. If not, your insurer may cover the services under another provider.

Source: American Telemedicine Association, About Telemedicine

Additional Resources:
ONC, Manage Health Conditions

Health Care Professional Perspective

Health IT is transforming the ability of practices to remotely deliver health care services and collect accurate, reliable patient data without solely relying on self-reported information collected during a face-to-face office visit.

Traditionally, practices have been limited to using information generated in an office visit—forgoing remote delivery of care and rich sources of nonclinical data on patients’ health and well-being generated outside of the patient encounter.

Practices can now take advantage of telehealth and patient-generated health data to fill information gaps and improve clinical decision-making, care access and delivery, and health outcomes.

Using digital, networked technologies like mobile phones and computers, providers can conduct cost-effective e-visits with patients and gather patient-generated health data. Data that can be gathered include:

  • Health and treatment histories.
  • Biometric data, like blood pressure readings.
  • Lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise habits.
  • Real-time symptoms.

Many practices are actively addressing the patient demand for telehealth, which has been shown to improve the patient experience, and using insights from patient-generated health data to:

  • Start a discussion about tracking a patient’s health between visits by illustrating a behavior over time.
  • Predict hospital readmission risk and plan an intervention for preventive care and chronic disease management.
  • Improve patient safety by providing insight into medication adherence and allergies.

Source: ONC, Patient Engagement Playbook

Additional Resources:

Last Revised: October 9, 2017

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