One of the primary goals of Meaningful Use is improving the quality of care provided to patients by Eligible Professionals (EPs). By implementing certified Electronic Health Records systems, providers are able to exchange the health record of an individual, which ultimately improves patient care and outcomes.
Meaningful Use Stage 1 was centered on launching EHR systems and beginning to capture and exchange data. With Stage 2, we start to focus on improving processes and outcomes, going beyond just providers–of the 17 requirements in Stage 2, two are specifically focused on the patient:
- Provide patients with the ability to view online, download and transmit their health information
- Use secure messaging to communicate with patients on relevant health information.
To fulfill the first requirement, the EP must provide online access to at least 50% of their patients within 4 days of their data being made available. This goal in and of itself is not difficult to achieve, since it is really a matter of scaling once an EHR system has been implemented and data made available online. However, both of these requirements stipulate that 5% of the EP’s patients must actually use these functionalities.
What does this mean in practical terms? First, that at least 5% of patients have actually accessed the online system. To complete the second requirement, at least 5% of patients must send an electronic message to the EP through the system. These requirements are intended to get the patient engaged in managing their own healthcare, through improved access to information and secure, facilitated communication with their provider.
The challenge for EPs is educating their patients on the advantages of EHR systems, and how to use them. These steps might include:
- Making patients aware of the availability of the system
- Offering guidance around the benefits and functionality of the systems
- Providing training on how to access and use the system
- Helping to foster trust in the safety and security of the system
Providers should utilize both online and offline channels to reach and engage their patients; for example, EPs could use a combination of mailing, on-location announcements, or even in-person mentions to let their patients know they can access their health information online and communicate electronically. If the EP is active on social media, this can also be a good way to promote the availability of these tools. Information and training on more in-depth or sensitive items could be made available on the EP’s website, or better yet, in the form of an onsite kiosk or downloadable tablet/smartphone training that the patient can explore during their wait.
Getting patients engaged in their own healthcare is one of the pillars of Meaningful Use. With robust communication and education, providers can achieve the right level of engagement to not only meet minimum Stage 2 requirements, but actually improve quality of care for their patients.