Healthcare News & Insights

Can PHR systems lead to better chronic care management?

A large number of patients with chronic conditions struggle to keep up with routine care management. But this electronic health record (EHR) system feature could help facilities close those gaps. 

188036858It’s estimated that over 140 million Americans live with some chronic disease and that number is expected to rise. Many hospitals have problems finding ways to help these patients maintain their chronic care management (CCM) and prevent expensive readmissions for more serious issues.

Telephone and other traditional reminders may not be enough to engage patients to complete tasks like scheduling appointments or using tests, leaving “prevention gaps” in their care.

PHRs and prevention gaps

But a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Weill Cornell Medical College, shows that a new tool may do a better job of getting patients engaged with their care — personal electronic health records (PHRs) systems.

PHRs function similarly to patient portals. These systems are connected to providers’ EHRs and allow patients to review lab results and communicate with providers and staff. They also allow providers to send health reminders about preventive tasks, like scheduling routine exams or renewing medications.

Researchers took 584 patients with chronic conditions and enrolled them in PHRs to see if sending health alerts impacted their quality of care and closed prevention gaps.

Initially, the survey found that many patients often miss out on vital parts of their care, receiving less than 60% of recommended services. However, sending health alerts through the PHRs closed prevention care gaps more effectively that reminders from other methods.

The study found 61% of people accessed the PHR or received care after one alert, and 73% did so after a second message. These rates were both higher than traditional reminders via snail-mail or telephone.

Perks of PHRs

Hospitals that often coordinate chronic care for patients may want to consider investing in PHRs to give patients another options to maintain their health. A recent survey of healthcare consumers also found that many patients want these kinds of digital tools for engagement. PHRs are another way for hospitals to meet payors’ requirements for CCM payments.

Beyond just improving the quality of care for patients with chronic conditions with alerts and reminders, there are other reasons why practices may want to invest in patient portals and PHRs. Patient engagement is an important requirement hospitals must meet in order to earn meaningful use incentives.

Before you make the investment, however, it’s important that hospital leaders take some time to research which PHRs best fit their operations. You may also want to look at your patient mix to see how many CCM patients your hospital works with, and how many would be interested in using PHRs.

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