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Patient Engagement Tools Mature into Workflow Solutions

In this part I of my HIMSS17 commentary, I describe how the array of patient engagement offerings at this year’s annual conference has matured to include many connected workflow solutions that benefit both providers and patients & their families: 

It has taken a long time for common standards and a sufficient installed base of EHR software to be adopted to create the necessary conditions for a connected health ecosystem. But there’s good news: based on advances reported at HIMSS17, all signs indicate that we are turning the corner toward the next phase where advanced analytic and productivity applications can be built upon the basic infrastructure layer. It’s still not plug and play, but enterprise-wide systems like customer relationship management (CRM) platforms for the healthcare sector are providing the backbone, along with APIs that supply the connective tissue to related apps, for a sustainable connected healthcare ecosystem.

At HIMSS17, one pleasant surprise was witnessing the progress that has been made on the patient engagement workflow front. Prior to HIMSS17, I was quoted as saying “Without fully including patients in their own health care decisions, patient engagement programs are nothing more than paternalistic compliance programs”. That statement garnered a lot of attention on social media and led to requests for meetings with several companies that offer a new generation of patient engagement tools that far outshine the first generation of prescription adherence apps and rudimentary patient portals.

HealthGrid, for example, has created a CRM platform, CareNarrative, which helps providers communicate with patients at appropriate times and offers solutions for ambulatory care, acute care and post-acute care. CareNotify is HealthGrid’s consumer-facing platform that enables patients and their family members/care team to access real-time information on inpatient care, discharge instructions, as well as education materials. CareNotify can be used to request appointments, complete check-in, fill in surveys and more.

Geisinger Health System also has found that a CRM platform is the best way to connect and manage patient-related data to engage patients on a personalized basis. Geisinger is working with Salesforce and Accenture to develop a custom CRM that can tailor care plans to individuals. This article in MobiHealthNews provides more detail on how the team at Geisinger has maintained a patient-centric mindset with a focus on improving outcomes.

In my discussions with Chanin Wendling, AVP Informatics and Jonathan Slotkin, MD, Medical Director, Division of Applied Research & Clinical Informatics at Geisinger, they further described use cases where an entire community will be served by its CRM by connecting to related organizations and retail health outlets across the community, as is being done in a pilot program in Scranton, PA. The Scranton pilot provides a glimpse into how social determinants of health (SDOH) could be incorporated into a CRM system to create a community-wide population health management system.

It is also worth mentioning that telemedicine services can be integrated into a CRM-based patient engagement system. Salesforce, the leading worldwide CRM vendor, offers a telemedicine capability through its own-branded HealthCloud patient relationship management solution.

B.well approaches patient engagement from a different angle. Kristen Valdes, founder and CEO of b.well, brings her experience working in the health plan segment to bear on improving the patient experience. B.well’s patient engagement platform for health plans, employers and brokers offers a single solution for providing patients and their care team access to care management and wellness tools, with an emphasis on understanding benefits and costs. At the same time, the platform serves as a population health management service that incorporates cost information for the payers that offer b.well.

The examples above represent just a fraction of the enhanced patient engagement solutions that were on display at HIMSS17. Although questions remain about control, access and security of patient relationship management platforms, integrated workflow systems serve a vital function in creating a health ecosystem that can help connect providers, patients, health plans and over time, the larger communities.

Growth in patient relationship management platforms has benefited from standards and IT advances that were developed for the provider market, as well as innovations in the consumer sector, (smartphones and mobile access, in particular). Part II of my HIMSS17 commentary will focus on workflow developments that enhance physician engagement.

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