Examining Patient Engagement

John Commins, September 18, 2014

In our April Intelligence Report, the top challenge cited by leaders for their primary care redesign efforts is to get patients engaged in their own care. HealthLeaders Media Council members discuss why this is so difficult, and what steps their organization is taking in this area.

This article first appeared in the November 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Michael Schaffrinna, MD
Chief Medical Officer
Community Health of Central Washington
Yakima, WA

Michael Schaffrinna, MD
Michael Schaffrinna, MD

There are two pieces. One, patient engagement in their own health is challenged by provider use of the electronic health record, and second is the social determinants, such as financial resources and education, of the patient population.

We are a community health center, so the patients we care for tend to be more disadvantaged Medicare and Medicaid and indigent populations. We don't have necessarily the educational background or the fiscal resources to be able to engage in the way that people need. That would be the No. 1 barrier, just the social determinants. Otherwise, most people have access to smartphones and things like that, so using the portal to help them become more engaged in their healthcare is certainly available to the vast majority of folks.

The challenge there is providing information through our EHRs in a way that is easy to understand. Providers across the country are being forced to adapt to EHRs that are not necessarily making life easier for them. We adopted an EHR about two years ago now, and we are still trying to recover from that decision. It is like a road full of potholes, and we have to fill the potholes so that providers have more time to engage with the patients.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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