Patient engagement is near the top of everyone’s HIT list this year, and no one does it better than Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa., one of the most effective integrated health systems in the country. As a combined payer/provider, it’s been providing patient portal access for several years. EHealth director Chanin Wendling will share some of Geisinger’s secrets for helping patients understand and maintain their health and manage their provider relationships during a session titled “Digital Patient Engagement” on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 8:30 a.m.

Wendling will present studies showing that better patient engagement improves outcomes and lowers costs. “We all know that intuitively, but it’s nice to have real data,” she says.

She’ll also talk about strategies that Geisinger has found effective for using the following tools:

  • Patient portals: Geisinger gives patients access to key measures, and also allows them to upload certain data about their conditions, which can trigger decision support alerts for physicians and make it easier for them to spot trends.
  • Tablets: iPads in physician waiting rooms allow patients to complete screening questionnaires before their appointments. Wendling will discuss how to make them friendlier for older patients, and how to minimize the risk of theft.
  • Text messaging: “Everyone’s crazy about smartphones, but even normal cellphones text message just fine, and you will hit a broader population than with an app,” Wendling says. A pilot appointment reminder program showed about $50K in savings for just one department by decreasing no-shows. She’ll also talk about using texts for health reminders.
  • Mobile apps. Geisinger has had an app for its patient portal since 2011, and is working on several new ones for condition management that go beyond the thousands of diet-and-exercise apps now available. “A consumer is perfectly capable of choosing an app to manage diet and exercise, but they’re not in the best position to understand whether a COPD app is accurate,” Wendling says. “That’s where we feel we need to step in.” Diabetes and congestive heart failure are her team’s initial targets.

Part of Geisinger’s success at patient engagement is due to its innovation division, which develops new tools without the burden of day-to-day operational duties. “It’s hard to innovate and operate at the same time,” Wendling says. She’ll talk about the division’s process for development, testing and evaluation.

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