Hospital chief information officers may believe they are responsible for patient engagement, but a recent survey of providers, CIOs and patients raises questions if the CIO is the right office to lead the effort.

The HIMSS study, released Wednesday at HIMSS15, found all three parts of the equation view patient engagement positively, but notable differences exist:

* Definition: For CIOs, patient engagement is about technology and driven by meaningful use. But for patients and providers, patient engagement is about relationships.

* Ownership: CIOs say they own patient engagement since it requires technology, providers say patients need to take responsibility for their care/outcomes, and patients say providers need to spend more time with them.

* Barriers: For CIOs the main barriers are the attitudes and expectations of patients and providers. For providers, time demands and training were their top barriers and for patients it was the providers’ time.

As the healthcare system continues to struggle to care for the patient as a person, these conflicts are the challenges that the hospital and CIO need to address, said Lorren Pettit, vice president, market research for HIMSS. “It does raise the question,” he explained, “is the CIO the right office to lead and drive this effort?”

Also See: Patient Portals Not Living Up to Potential

Looking at the CIO side, the majority of 125 CIOs of hospitals interviewed by HIMSS said patient engagement has the ability to improve patient education, satisfaction and safety within their organizations. Yet, it is a hard sell to clinicians. The CIOs said increasing staff and physician satisfaction was unlikely as a result of meaningful use patient engagement activities.

In the survey, 46.4% of CIOs said they drive patient engagement efforts, primarily since it is an IT function, Pettit said. Yet, a majority said they don’t have a strategic plan around patient engagement.

For physicians, they see the upside of patient engagement, with 84% of 359 primary care physicians surveyed saying patient engagement was beneficial and 79% saying it was part of the job. Yet, only 39% said it was efficient.

The biggest barrier for physicians is time and that’s not a surprise, said Christina Hoffman, vice president, quality and strategy at Medscape Education. The development of any engagement strategy should start to include patient and patient advocacy, but also the clinicians.

To overcome these barriers, the process needs an owner who is accountable and driving it, preferably someone in in the clinician area, Pettit said, as this is “morphing outside IT.”

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