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#HIMSS16 Reflections: Engaging the New Healthcare Consumer

Before HIMSS16, I proposed in my Industry Perspective on February 2nd that:

Health consumers are patients, caregivers, and people. Some are healthy, some are newly-diagnosed with chronic conditions, others are managing ongoing illnesses, and a group is facing end-stage illness making end-of-life decisions. Health IT can engage people across the continuum of care, to enable and empower consumers to shop for better care, share in clinical decision making with clinicians, care at home for self and family, and manage healthcare financial wellness through the journey.

Through this consumer/patient-centered lens, I attended HIMSS16 looking for:

  • User (consumer)-centered design and more consumer-like usability in products
  • Affordability and products/services driving toward The Triple Aim
  • Overall, a greater focus on consumer engagement throughout the exhibition hall.

On the education front, dozens of sessions offered rich content based on experience from hospitals and physician practices working hard to enable shared decision-making, reduce health disparities, promote health literacy, and engage people in self-care and data sharing. That’s half of the supply side at HIMSS – that is, the education conference itself.

The other aspect of the supply side of HIMSS are the products and services featured on the sprawling exhibition floor (or more appropriately, “floors,” as the layout of the Las Vegas Sands Convention Center is architecturally multilayered versus horizontal).

Walking through the aisles of exhibitors with that consumer lens firmly focused, I indeed took in taglines and mantras on their booths heralding “population health,” “empowering patients,” “the connected patient,” and to be sure, “patient engagement.”

But the reality is that there continues to be a significant chasm between health care providers and patients when it comes to true sharing of data. The most important piece of data coming out of hundreds of press releases during the week of HIMSS2016 is this one, from Accenture’s March 1 press release titled, “Consumers and Doctors Increasingly Divided on Who Should Have Access to a Patient’s Electronic Health Record, Accenture Survey Finds.”

Notwithstanding the great progress and proof of the Open Notes project, it is clear that most physicians still have concerns about fully opening the kimono of patient data. Note that there’s a nearly inverse wish among consumers desiring full access to their EHR versus doctors, who would prefer more “limited access.”

Yet research on patient activation by Dr. Judith Hibbard, among others, demonstrates that consumers who are more highly engaged in their health care generate lower costs to the health system.

For consumers, health engagement is spurred by a combination their individual commitment to whole health, social health and connections, support for making and sustaining lifestyle behavior changes, and personal health economics, among many personal factors.

For clinicians, it may be the move toward value-based payment will be the principle motivator to changing their behavior to opening the EHR kimono. That, and the probability that some patients (first, younger, healthier, “convenience-based consumers”) will vote with their feet and leave physician practices that do not deliver on a streamlined digital experience that people demand in daily life.

Be a part of the proactive patient-clinician engagement conversation on Twitter via the #Engage4Health and #HIMSS16 hashtags; and by checking out HIMSS’ offerings on the topic.

Keywords: 
patient engagementHIMSS16Population Health