Healthcare News & Insights

Program encourages patients to use healthcare tech

The feds want patients to be more engaged with healthcare technology, particularly by viewing their health data via access to electronic health records (EHR) systems. However, many patients aren’t taking advantage of this feature, so hospitals may have to use technology creatively to get them on board. 

In a recent report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlighted just how much hospitals were falling short on meeting goals for patients’ use of tech to review their medical records.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) eventually wants all Americans to be able to access their health information via an EHR online. While federal data shows that 88% of hospitals had the ability to offer online medical records access to patients, only about 15% of them actually took advantage of this service. And it usually only occurred in reference to a recent medical visit.

It can be tough to figure out why this happens, but sometimes, it’s because the technology isn’t so user-friendly for patients, making it difficult to access their health-related information, so they end up losing interest. Offering them tech options that feel more familiar may be a better bet.

‘News feed’ for health

According to an article in Healthcare IT News, one hospital system did just that. It tested a program that gave patients access to their electronic health information using a “news feed” similar to the one used on Facebook and other social media platforms. Denver’s UCHealth used the program, CareLoop, in its emergency department.

Each patient received a CareLoop account upon admission. CareLoop gave providers, patients and their families a way to communicate with each other between face-to-face encounters. Providers could post test results and information about treatment, and patients could respond with their questions or concerns.

Patients who used CareLoop were surveyed, and 86% believed the system improved the communication between providers and patients. Even more promising: 96% said they enjoyed the updates they received from their doctors and nurses, and 90% said doctors and nurses responded better to their needs.

Clinical staff also found the system convenient, saying it helped them improve care processes and check in with patients more often. Doctors and nurses could see if patients read updates about their health on their news feeds, which kept everyone on the same page.

CareLoop is designed to work with any hospital’s EHR, since it was created using technology that allows it to be integrated into multiple types of systems.

More developers are taking advantage of this kind of technology, especially after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) took steps to promote the integration of various outside health-related programs with EHRs as part of its overhaul of the meaningful use program.

Programs such as CareLoop, which use familiar social networking technology to engage patients, will only become more popular as the push to increase patients’ access to their medical records continues.

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