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September 14, 2016

These are the top 5 patient-engagement tools, survey finds

Daily Briefing

About 70 percent of providers use tools, programs, or technologies to increase patients' participation in their own care, according to a NEJM Catalyst survey.

The NEJM Catalyst Patient Engagement Survey included responses from 369 health systems, hospitals, and physician organizations.

Survey results

The survey found that 69 percent of respondents are using techniques to increase patients' meaningful participation in their care. Sixteen percent of respondents are not, and 15 percent reported being unsure.

The most-common patient engagement initiatives are:

  1. Patient portals, used by 79 percent of respondents at scale or on a pilot basis;
  2. Secure email, used by 68 percent of respondents;
  3. Online/mobile scheduling (including reminders), used by 49 percent of respondents;
  4. Patient-generated data, such as within an EHR, used by 47 percent of respondents; and
  5. Social networks, used by 44 percent of respondents.

When asked which initiative was the most effective at increasing patients' meaningful participation in care, 38 percent of respondents report using patient portals, with smaller numbers reporting using secure email (14 percent), patient-generated data (9 percent), online/mobile scheduling (8 percent), and benefit design (7 percent).

Only 14 percent of respondents indicate patient engagement initiatives have a major effect on outcomes, while 34 percent of respondents indicate patient engagement initiatives have a moderate effect on outcomes. Meanwhile:

  • 60 percent of clinical leaders say patient engagement initiatives work;
  • 47 percent of executives say patient engagement initiatives work; and
  • 43 percent of clinicians say patient engagement initiatives work.

Beyond compliance: Patient engagement from the patient's perspective


Kevin Volpp, director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, writes in an accompanying commentary that the survey results show providers still have a long way to go on patient engagement.

"Ideally, as health care providers head toward more widespread value-based care, the number using patient engagement initiatives should be far closer to 100 percent," he writes. "As an industry, we obviously have more work to do to demonstrate that providers should be engaging and supporting patients outside of direct health care encounters."

Volpp argues this will, by necessity, involve more engagement with patients when they aren't in the exam room. "Although patients spend only a few hours a year with a doctor or nurse, they spend 5,000 waking hours each year engaged in everything else," he writes. These daily tasks include deciding whether to take prescriptions, what to drink and eat, and "making other choices about activities that can profoundly affect their health."

As a result, Volpp argues that helping patients share their data, such as the results of exercise programs or blood pressure readings, will be a key to what he calls "Patient Engagement 2.0" (Volpp/Mohta, NEJM Catalyst, 9/8).

How a web-based strategy can boost patient engagement and loyalty

How a web-based strategy can boost patient engagement and loyalty

Given resource limitations, health systems must deploy care management infrastructure in a scaled fashion.

This market scan reviews services provided by four types of online platforms—virtual health coach, patient social network, condition-specific forum, and provider-hosted online community—that are designed to support patients in ongoing self-management.

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