Healthcare News & Insights

Direct messaging benefits beat its cost, but not on Facebook

Direct Messaging benefits beat its cost, but not on Facebook

With technology connecting people everywhere at all hours, hospitals are beginning to take advantage and use those tools to connect with partners and patients — and improve care. 

ThinkstockPhotos-488644013The most common example of this has been through health information exchanges (HIEs), where providers in an exchange use direct messaging to coordinate care and share clinical information.

Not all hospitals have jumped on the HIE bandwagon, apparently doubtful the benefits are worth the high costs of sustaining most HIEs.

But a new survey by the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) suggests that the benefits of HIEs and the ability to securely share information outweigh those costs.

Direct messaging in HIEs

The new survey, conducted by HIMSS’ Interoperability and HIE Comittees, polled 75 HIEs in 27 states to get a diverse range of experiences with direct messaging.

Mari Greenberger, HIMSS director of informatics, and Sean Kennedy, director, HIE, Mass eHealth Institute, said the survey results point to good progress in to how HIE usage is evolving in the industry.

The top five uses of direct messaging were:

  • transition of care
  • admission, discharge or transfer notifications
  • patient communication
  • secure email for other purposes, and
  • consulting requests between physicians.

The main benefits respondents found to using direct messages included:

  • faster access to information
  • less use of paper to exchange information, and
  • more thorough and accurate patient information.

Respondents also noted some of the biggest challenges when using direct messaging, such as:

  • the high cost of creating and sustaining an exchange
  • changing workflows, and
  • other providers who aren’t ready to interface.

However, when asked if the cost was worth the benefits, over 50% of respondents said yes.

The good news is that, as the industry develops its use of HIEs, some groups have found ways to work around some of those barriers without losing the benefits of direct messaging. Providers and payors in Philadelphia recently accomplished this by developing a unique take on HIEs and interoperability.

Facebook and physicians

Communicating with patients and other providers through an HIE is probably the safest way for providers to message about clinical information.

But patients may begin pushing providers to communicate with them on their own level — like through Facebook or other types of social media.

As Business Standard reports, a recent survey of more than 2,000 patients by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg school of Public Health showed that patients were interested in contacting their doctors through Facebook.

Prior to the survey, 37% of respondents had contacted doctors through personal email and 18% contacted a physician through their Facebook page. Patients younger than 45 were more likely to want to have electronic contact with their providers.

Many industry groups have warned physicians and hospitals to stay away from using social media to communicate with individual patients, citing privacy and liability issues. So patients’ desire for physicians to use Facebook as a communication tool may not be practical.

However, it does point to a demand for more direct access to care and clinical advice. The survey also found that:

  • 57% of respondents said they wanted to use websites to access health information
  • 46% said they wanted to use email to track their health progress and access health information, and
  • 46% said they were interested in filling prescriptions via email.

Despite their interest, only a very small percentage of respondents were able to perform those types of tasks.

That’s why facilities may want to consider alternatives ways to connect with patients, like providing telehealth, patient portals and personal health records or using health coaches or patient navigators to help meet patients’ needs.

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