Sunday, August 26, 2012

MU: Transforming Patient Engagement

The final long awaited requirements for the Stage 2 EHR Incentive program have just been released by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and CMS. The announcement specifies what requirements hospitals and healthcare providers must meet in order to qualify for incentives and the criteria that EHRs must meet to achieve certification.

The new rules specific to patient engagement include:

  • The objective “provide patients with an electronic copy of their information” is being replaced with an “electronic/online access” core objective
  • A new core objective for eligible providers is to “use secure messaging to communicate with patients on relevant health information”
  • CMS proposed two new core objectives related to patient engagement with measures that require patients to take specific actions in order for a provider to achieve meaningful use and receive an EHR incentive payment. For both, the threshold was lowered from the proposed 10 percent of patients to 5 percent in the final rule. CMS also recognizes broadband availability limitations in some provider practice areas and introduced an exclusion
  • Patient and family engagement is one of the six key healthcare policy domains of which all providers must select at least three for Clinical Quality Measures (CQM) and reporting. These are the CQMs that reflect the potential to improve patient-centered care and the quality of care delivered to patients. They emphasize the importance of collecting patient-reported data and the ability to impact care at the individual level as well as the population level through greater involvement of patients and families in decision making, self care, activation, and understanding of their health condition and effective management \
  • More than 50 percent of all unique patients seen by the eligible provider are provided timely (within 4 business days) online access to their health information. More than 50 percent of all patients who are discharged from the inpatient or emergency department of an eligible hospital or Critical Access Hospital have their information available online within 36 hours of discharge
As hospitals and other providers prepare to comply, they must first acknowledge that this isn’t just an issue for their IT departments to address. Instead, attaining meaningful use of an individual’s EHR system for patient engagement will require the collective involvement and collaboration of disciplines from across the organization to include clinical, operations, information services, and communications/marketing.

“Healthcare leaders will need to be strategic and put every decision in the context of the patient experience. Having an effective patient strategy will lead to happy customers, staff, and a healthcare organization exceeding their business objectives”, said Dr. Sue Sutton, CEO at Tower ( a patient experience consulting group based in Los Angeles, California.

“The approach required is one of re-defining patient engagement across all touch points, both physical and virtual, to positively transform the patient’s experience as perceived by the patient. The research tells us where the patients are going, but institutions aren’t paying attention. If the approach taken doesn’t actually engage patients, the organization won’t meet the meaningful use criteria and they may actually lose some patients to healthcare providers who have implemented more patient-centered engagement strategies”, added Dr. Sutton.

Enterprise portals can facilitate electronic access by making information within existing systems available in a more patient-friendly manner. The portal helps accomplish the goal of compliance with the meaningful use criteria, but it does so at the same time it can accommodate additional features and personalization for enhanced engagement and a better patient experience. Ultimately, this is what will lead to improved outcomes—the ultimate goal of meaningful use.

Go to the CMS EHR Incentive Programs website at for more information on the Stage 2 rule.

For more information, email Christina Thielst at or call (805) 845-2450.