How do patients fit into your EHR stakeholder analysis?

An EHR system’s successful implementation in any practice will depend on “buy-in” from stakeholders. The most obvious stakeholders who come to mind are clinical and administrative staff; however, one stakeholder group often under-considered in the discussion on the successful use of an EHR are patients.

How are patients an EHR stakeholder?

Although an EHR serves a specific function related to managing care “in house” it can also play an important role in improving patient outcomes by encouraging patients to become more engaged in their treatment. Of course, this comes with a caveat, patients must be familiarized with, educated and be comfortable using the patient facing functionality of an EHR such as the patient portal. Will a patient need to understand the nuances of how your EHR works? Likely not. However, patients should be educated on how EHR platforms can enhance their experience facilitating the sharing of information and empowering patients to have a more meaningful stake in their treatment.

Do patients have an invested interest in EHR?

Research shows that patients have a desire to access EHRs for a number of reasons. The most common reasons were to see what their physician said about them (74%), to be more involved in their health care (74%) and to better understand their condition (72%). Besides meeting patient preferences for more involvement in their healthcare, there are a number of identified clinical benefits involved with educating and involving patients in available EHR resources.

Use this EHR selection checklist to map out your stakeholders and identify their requirements

A body of research also sheds light on the role patient portals offered through EHRs can positively affect clinical outcomes. For example a 2014 study notes that patient portals and the wealth of other information in EHRs allows patients “access to effective and tailored patient education, electronic patient–provider communication, and tailored patient education, electronic patient–provider communication….which could lead to improvements in chronic disease outcomes through improved patient-centered care and self-management”.

The theory that underlies the clinical benefits of increased access rests on the idea that if patients can easily contact their providers and access their medical information that in turn enhances interpersonal continuity of care, a factor identified in improved preventive care and reduced hospitalization.

What does this mean for the EHR selection process?

As the research highlighted here and many other reports suggest, viewing patients as a key stakeholder in an EHR strategy can offer tangible benefits and is worth considering. Besides the documented clinical benefits of patient engagement, the Meaningful Use Stage 3 requirements place an emphasis on coordination of care through patient engagement.

This requires active engagement of electronic health records, secure messaging to the patient and patient-generated health data or data from a non-clinical setting incorporated into certified EHR technology. In any of these forms of interaction, patients must be educated and ultimately possess a degree of comfort with an EHR system. As such, patient outreach efforts aimed at familiarizing and encouraging engagement through the EHR should become a necessary part of a practice’s technology strategy in the immediate future.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green

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