Business Process Improvements to Meet Patient Engagement Requirements
Meeting the patient engagement requirements related to the use of the patient portal is one of the most difficult areas of compliance with the Meaningful Use program, especially if you have a non-integrated or inadequate EHR/Portal platform. Medical professionals argue that they should not be financially responsible for patient use of the system since they cannot control patient behavior. It is apparent that the incentive system within the program will not be changed. However, there are ways the practicing medical community can significantly improve the possibilities of successful outcomes, for their patients and their own compliance requirements.
Three steps that can be taken to accomplish those outcomes
- Implement a business process improvement project related to patient engagement requirements and the patient portal.
- Systematize patient advocacy to positively influence patient use of the portal system.
- Enhance the knowledge-base and best practices related to the Meaningful Use program in general and patient engagement requirements through the portal in particular.
This discussion assumes that a patient portal system has already been implemented within the organization. Consideration will have to be given to whether the portal was developed by an in-house IT staff or a third-party; but that issue will not be addressed here.
Project Initiation and Overall Goals
The first step of the project team would be to conduct a thorough business analysis and documentation of the current implementation of patient engagement requirements through the patient portal. Among the questions to be answered:
- What is the internal (staff) and external (patient) workflow?
- What is the state of the portal system? What is working well and what isn’t? Are there unused capabilities?
- Is there a training program in place? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Once the as-is state has been determined and documented, the next step is to develop a transition plan; not to another future static state, but to the implementation of an ongoing, evolving process. The features of this process would include:
- A sub-project exclusively tasked with meeting current compliance requirements
- Discovery and implementation of future requirements
- Take advantage of advancements in technology
- On-going compliance measurement and reporting
- Continuous improvement in patient care through the use of the patient portal
Establish Patient Advocacy
Whether this is a person, a small staff, or a department, the primary focus of this business unit is on the unique circumstances of each patient and the patient’s family or care-givers. To that end, through direct assistance, the advocate educates the patient on ways to take more responsibility for their healthcare, especially through the use of the patient portal.
The advocacy team assesses and documents individual patient needs and creates a plan for patient/care-giver education and training. They implement this plan in consultation and coordination with the medical staff, the administrative staff, and a new business unit, the Patient Portal SME.
Establish Patient Portal SME (Subject/System Matter Expert)
As with advocacy, this unit could be a person or a group, depending on the needs and capabilities of the organization.
This area provides expertise in the requirements and implementation of Meaningful Use best practices, especially relating to the patient portal. They create evolving education and training plans and materials for medical staff and patients in the benefits, use, and functionality of the patient portal system. They manage on-going hardware and software support and upgrades, as needed.
The implementation of these steps creates enormous risks for any organization, regardless of size or sophistication. But, from a business and health IT perspective, these actions, or similar variations thereof, appear to be the surest way to meet the needs of all stakeholders within the current environment and for the foreseeable future.