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Patient Engagement Technologies Add to Streamlined Patient Experience

Research indicates patient engagement technologies are viewed as a part of a streamlined patient experience, not an add-on.

Patient engagement technologies, like patient portals, contribute to an overall better patient experience because they enable patient data access and digital patient-provider communication, according to research out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) and Samford University.

These findings open the door for future research into how health IT influences the patient experience of care, the researchers concluded.

Health IT has revolutionized the way patients and providers alike approach medicine. The EHR, for example, has improved efficiency, although has also introduced some usability issues that have caused some healthcare worker burnout. The EHR has also been credited with opening up care access opportunities and, from the patient perspective, driving care coordination and a better experience.

This latest data, published in the Patient Experience Journal, showed that health IT that is patient-facing—referred to by researchers as P-Tech—can also drive enhancements in the patient experience. Particularly, the researchers focused on the patient-facing aspects of the EHR, like patient data access and secure messaging.

These functions generally live in the patient portal, the researchers mentioned.

Using data from the CMS Hospital Compare website, the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey, and the AHA Survey Health IT Supplement, the researchers assessed patient perceptions of P-Tech at 1,168 hospitals nationwide.

Overall, the researchers found that P-Tech supported a better patient experience, especially as it related to patient self-management, information exchange and access, and administrative action. Patients see patient engagement technologies and the patient portal as extensions of patient-provider communication, the researchers indicated, and particularly an extension of their overall care experience.

“Thus, capabilities that center on their preferences and needs and empower them are going to be most aligned with patient’s desired outcomes,” the researchers wrote in the study’s discussion section.

Findings indicating that the patient portal and other P-Tech helped support patient self-management, for example, show that patients view technology as a means to deepen their healthcare experience. The researchers posited that P-Tech can improve patient empowerment and activation.

Notably, the analysis revealed key aspects about how patient engagement technology can influence patient relationships with nurses. Presence of P-Tech was linked with better HCAHPS scores in the Staff Responsiveness, Understood, Cleanliness, Quietness, Nurse Communication, Communication about Medicines, and Discharge Instructions domains.

“Taken together, these results suggest that the relationship between P-Tech and patient reported experience is potentially driven by an association between P-Tech and nursing-related activities,” the researchers explained. “Each of the HCAHPS composites that are associated with P-Tech directly addresses nurse communication and activities.”

Those findings aren’t entirely surprising, they added, considering previous literature indicating that better patient experience is linked with nurse communication.

This was true even when looking at some P-Tech functions that are not at all the purview of nurses, like appointment requests and prescription refills.

“It could be that, rather than having a disassociated evaluation of the various aspects of their care wherein the technological aspects of their care experience and the interpersonal aspects of their care experience are isolated and distinct from each other, patients are evaluating all aspects as comprehensive components of their care experience,” the researchers posited.

Said otherwise, patient engagement technology is seen as a part of the entire care experience, not as a separate aspect of healthcare. Consumers perceive one whole patient experience, not piecemeal experiences across different channels.

“The evidence provided in this study shows that patients do not experience the face-to-face interactions and technological interactions as distinct from each other. Specifically, patients view the availability of P-Tech capabilities that enable Exchanging Information as having the strongest relationship to care provider communication,” the researchers said.

“Healthcare administrators would be wise to consider this notion, evidenced by this study, as each of these types of interactions are significant components of the patient experience which aligns with The Beryl Institute’s definition of patient experience as the sum of all interactions,” they added.

These findings should inspire future investigation into other patient-facing technologies, like telehealth. Given the expansion of telehealth following the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers suggested study of how these tools impact the patient experience and how they can be streamlined into the single care experience most patients perceive.

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