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EHR vs EMR: There's a Clear Winner When it Comes to Patient Engagement

man-holding-a-trophyThe contest of EHR vs EMR may not be as legendary as Ali vs Frazier or as hotly debated as Mac vs PC, but increasingly, health care professionals are acknowledging that EHRs and EMRs are not interchangeable. There are critical differences between the two — especially when it comes to their usefulness in creating patient engagement strategies.

  • EMRs (Electronic Medical Records) are digital versions of patient records within a single practitioner’s office. While they unquestionably offer advantages — allowing a physician to track patient data over time and consolidating bulky paper systems into a more searchable electronic format — EMRs are not easily shared outside of the practice, resulting in a narrow view of the patient experience.
  • EHRs (Electronic Health Records), as the word “health” in the name suggests, offer a more comprehensive picture of patients’ health across the entire continuum of care. Despite some current interoperability challenges, they are designed to share information among providers. And sharing does not end there. One key objective for achieving Stage 2 Meaningful Use for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs is to provide patients with online access to their own health records.

Why is Patient Engagement Important?

As an industry, health care is undergoing a transformation in order to achieve what has been dubbed the “triple aims” of health care– enhancing patient experiences, improving population health and reducing costs.

While many of the changes needed to realize these goals must come from within the health care system itself, patients play a critical role as well. After all, as former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD wrote in the foreword to Improving Medication Adherence: How to Talk with Patients about Their Medications, “No medication works inside a bottle. Period.”

Therein lies one of the reasons that patient engagement has become a clarion call for hospitals and other health care providers. Unless patients become active participants in managing their own wellness, no amount of pharmaceutical, clinical or technological innovation will transform health care.

Patients are undergoing a transformation as well. In response to the growing cost burden of health insurance — whether through employer-sponsored or ACA exchanges — has led to a consumer mentality. Patients are beginning to demand price transparency and shopping around for services. 

What’s more, as Chris Cashwell, the senior vice president of global marketing and strategy at Lincor Solutions, noted in an interview with Electronic Health Reporter, “… we now live in a connected, engaged society. Twitter, Facebook, Google, Netflix, etc., all allow us to have what we want on demand in real time. We do not leave those expectations in the “parking lot” of the health care facility. We expect to Skype with a grandmother, to research therapy options, to see a movie on demand.”

Access to the EHR is one way that hospitals and other health care providers can facilitate engagement. And according to a recent survey by Accenture, 69 percent of respondents with chronic health conditions would like to access their health care information online. The biggest barrier? More than half said they wouldn’t know how to access those records. That’s a problem that needs to be resolved.

An EHR Alone is Not Enough to Drive Patient Engagement

As retailers know, simply creating a website does not guarantee consumer traffic. The same is true of patient portals to EHRs. Hospitals and health care providers need to develop strategic patient communication plans that address the patient-consumers’ unique preferences — for example, motivational messaging, level of interaction and media/messaging channels. 

In order to gain the needed insights into patient motivations, providers can use a tool like c2b solutions’ proprietary Consumer Segmentation Model to break down patients into psychographic segments with 91.1 percent predictability. Psychographic segmentation groups consumers according to their attitudes, beliefs, values and lifestyle to tap into their personal motivations… in this case, regarding health and wellness.

Hospitals that can successfully activate and engage patients with their EHR patient portals will be better positioned to build collaborative relationships with patients and achieve positive health outcomes and costs savings.

As Kaveh Safavi, MD, JD, managing director of global health business at Accenture, said “Healthcare will need to adapt to a new generation of individuals who are taking a more proactive role in managing their health and expect to have transparency. As consumers continue to demand more access to their personal data online, we expect that patients will gain more power to manage some aspects of their own care. This will not only make health care more effective but also more affordable, as consumers doing more for themselves will free up the system to be more productive.”

To learn more about connecting with consumers on a deeper level, contact c2b solutions today.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change

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