The 5 Myths of Patient Engagement with HIT

April 18th, 2011 by DCPatient Leave a reply »

The remarks below are a distillation of my presentation at the April 14, 2011 Patients as Partners in Care: Engaging Patients through Health IT event at the National Press Club hosted by RTI International. I was privileged to share the panel with Dr. Edward Glynn, Ambulatory Medical Director of Informatics, Bon Secours Health System; Lygeia Ricciardi, the 1st senior advisor for Consumer e-health, Office of the National Coordinator, Health & Human Services; Ann Bartlett, a patient and brilliant diabetes blogger for Health Central; Drs. Jonathan Wald and Douglas Kamerow, both of RTI International.

Thank yous to @CindyThroop now at RTI for the invitation, @ReginaHolliday for her real-time artistry, and @HITgreg from Clinovations for live-tweeting these concepts.

Myth One: “Potato/Patato”
The most fundamental myth when discussing patient engagement is assuming that patients and consumers are interchangeable when asking the question what a segment of the population wants from HIT. As I described in a previous post Consumers vs. Patients, the needs, preferences, and intensity varies with frequency of interaction with the healthcare system among other factors. Allow me to use the following analogy. What do you want from a camera? If you are Annie Lebovitz you’ll make a very detailed request involving aperture, shutter speed, lens exchangability, etc. If you ask me, a person who takes perhaps 5 photos a year that never seem to make it out of my computer, I would say that any old thing would do or really not contribute much to the discussion. Likewise, the input from experienced patients, those with chronic diseases whose lives depend on accurate, complete and timely exchange of data between and with their healthcare providers is an entirely different from the input of feedback of consumers or people with more limited needs. You only need an HIT solution if you have a problem.

Myth Two: “If we build it they will come”
Most HIT vendors have a field of dreams mentality, “If we build it they will come”; making no attempt at patient engagement in the design of HIT systems, or mistakenly trying to get input on technical aspects rather than end user experience and functionality goals.  Vendors and health system purchasers are now either frustrated with patients for not fully utilizing the available portals or tools, or are scrambling to start consumer engagement initiatives, usually again without having patients involved in designing the initiatives.  Meaningful engagement leads to meaningful use.

Myth Three: “Just say no”
A very pervasive myth is that patients are only concerned about data privacy and are opposed to sharing of data. The consequence of this erroneous assumption is that patients are not afforded the rights to manage their data and affirmatively select their privacy options, for fear that the population health, research and other benefits of using aggregated deidentified data will be lost. Two points – (1) patient care about many things other than privacy, and different patients have difference privacy preferences. Patients also care about accuracy, convenience, interoperability, safety, efficiency, priority and quality. (See What Patients Want from HIT). (2) It astounds me that there has not been any large scale educational campaign to the public or through patient advocacy organizations to educate on the potential and promise of HIT are, so that when patients are confronted with the choice to share information, they understand the implications.

Myth Four: “Look but don’t touch”
I applaud those institutions  that have set up a patient portal or otherwise allowed patients access to view their EMR either in whole or in part. However, as any patient who has looked at their records can tell you there are often inaccuracies, gaps, or redundancies that make the record misleading or downright dangerous. Additionally there is a wealth of patient generated data from mobile apps, diagnostic devices, and old-fashioned patient self-management notes that can potential inform care that never enters the formal EMR. It seems to me that that position that provider controlled EMRs with no mechanism for patients to enter or alter data are the only way to maintain data integrity misses a huge opportunity to harness patients as partners in correcting information and ensuring that all relevant information is in fact captured.

Myth Five: “It’s not for you”
Just as the whole notion of e-patient activism has come under fire for being the domain of only an elite segment of tech-savvy individuals, many claim that HIT does not serve low income or minority populations. Organizations such as the National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved, One Economy and other are making sure that the digital divide does not carry over into the health arena. Moreover, capitalizing on technology like cellphones, already enjoying a high penetration in communities, health campaigns like Text4Baby are proving highly successful. Early data from a Morehouse School of Medicine study E-Healthy Strides Application© for Interactive consumer driven diabetes self-management sponsored by the Microsoft ™ Be Well Initiative demonstrate an opportunity to successfully overcome barriers to HIT use among African American patients.

What other misplaced or misleading assumptions do YOU think are frequently made about patients’ views and potential for engagement with HIT?

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  1. Joe McCarthy says:

    I discovered this post after being inspired by Regina Holliday’s powerful parable painting of your presentation at the RTI forum. Thanks for sharing your own distillation of the 5 myths.

    FWIW, I recently encountered a related post on Why Patients are not consumers, written by an ER physician in the Pacific northwest (@movinmeat). Although this may be more relevant to your earlier post on the same topic, I mention it here because of the relevance to themes articulated here: the necessity of health care (vs. other services we “consume”), the asymmetry of information, and the concentration of power.
    Joe McCarthy´s last blog post ..Irritation Based Innovation

  2. DCPatient says:

    Joe, I really enjoyed your post on Why Patients are not consumers. I too am particularly resistance to those who want patients to have more “skin in the game”. Why, golly, I have my whole body in the “game”.
    DCPatient´s last blog post ..The 5 Myths of Patient Engagement with HIT