LAS VEGAS -- Online and mobile tools can improve not just patient engagement and health outcomes, but a physician practice's bottom line. That was the message from David Weinstock, MD, and Raymond Magner of Grove Medical Associates in Auburn, Massachusetts, speaking about health technology at HIMSS16 on Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Magner said the first step in developing an online wellness infrastructure is to implement an electronic health record system, the capabilities of which can be augmented by a patient portal. It allows patients access to their information 24/7, while creating comfortable and easy access with doctors, nurses and other staff.
"It's important for your patients to access their medical records online in a way that they feel comfortable with," Magner said.
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[Also: See photos from Day 1 of HIMSS16]
Magner touted the comprehensive features of his own outfit's patient portal, which allows patients to view lab results online, request referrals and prescription refills, cancel and schedule office appointments, and self-monitor certain aspects of their health, including glucose readings and blood pressure.
Magner said Grove Medical noticed a significant increase in patient compliance, especially around preventative screenings.
Paramount to this digital approach is the patient's ability to choose his or her own method of communication, be it emails, text messages or app notifications, he said. They also have access to education related to a diagnosis and ongoing health tips relevant to their situation.
"It's really important for the patient to have access to their own personal goal," said Magner. "If they have access at home, they're more likely to be compliant. We want patients to understand the information we're giving them is accurate and appropriate to their lives. It forms more of a relationship with their provider."
In a patient satisfaction survey conducted in Massachusetts five years after the implementation of Grove Medical's patient portal, the hospital scored higher than the state average.
[Also: See photos from Day 2 of HIMSS16]
"Patients felt like they had more access to their provider," said Magner. "They were reachable. It was very instantaneous that the patient could send a message, and we could respond right away. We could understand exactly where they were coming from from a health standpoint."
Weinstock said the investment in this technological approach has resulted in better patient health and also in solid financial returns.
"Talk about return on investment in technology," said Weinstock. "Phone calls go down; the no-show rate in our office has gone down. We're a small business, so the money really matters."
The hospital is also dabbling in wearable medical technologies that allow for real-time monitoring of vital health statistics. The facility spearheaded a 20-patient trial to determine the viability of Bluetooth-equipped wearable devices, tracking blood glucose, blood pressure and general activity.
"As a primary care doctor, I certainly feel the need to know what's out there," said Weinstock.
A point-of-entry push to get patients to use the portal has been a means toward that end. Which isn't to say that everyone is responsive; some have been resistant, which Weinstock said will always be a challenge. But things are improving in that area, as well.
"It's always a concern," he said. "We're starting to see some changes in the right direction there."