EHR + patient engagement platform integration: good for providers, good for patients

The implementation of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system for a healthcare organization can be an enormous undertaking, in terms of money, time and effort. These systems are comprehensive and complex, offering features to aid both patients and providers. 

Why, then, would an EHR integrate with patient engagement technology, as Cerner recently did with GetWellNetwork? Do EHRs not have patient engagement software built in? Is the existing software insufficient? 

Let’s take a closer look.

Patient portals do not equal patient engagement

The fact of the matter is that existing EHRs, no matter how robust their capabilities, do not have true patient engagement functionalities at this point in time. Furthermore, most EHRs understand the value and importance of “patient engagement” as a concept to the organization choosing to deploy it. After all, patient engagement allows providers and patients to be better connected, and puts patients on the road to better, healthier outcomes.

To this point, EHRs have tried to fill the patient engagement gap with one primary tool: the patient portal. Patient portal adoption has historically been 15-20%, providing patients with access to things like lab results and med refills. This patient data is certainly important, but it is not anchored around an episode of care.

Patient engagement software, on the other hand, like the technology featured in GetWell Anywhere, offers a unique window into a patient’s recovery that EHRs simply can’t provide. EHRs recognize this and choose to integrate, because they understand the value these insights can have for their patients.

The value of EHRs

Use of EHRs spread to the mainstream in the early 1990s, with the advent of portable computers, the Internet and local area networks. As of 2017, 86% of office-based physicians had adopted an EHR. But for what purpose?

EHRs were originally designed to take the paper out of healthcare. These systems provided a single point of documentation for organizations so they could consolidate millions of patient records. They were not initially designed to be a tool for the patient; with the advent of the patient portal, however, patients could access appointment reminders, medication refills and lab results, along with other things they were normally call the office for. However, even these systems were not intended to deliver a higher level of engagement than just information retrieval and exchange.

Bridging the gap with patient engagement technology

This leads to a huge gap in communication between the patient and the provider. Providers don’t have a good way to check in with their patients, or to understand what’s going on daily in a scalable way. With patient engagement technology, however, both providers and patients can access the right information at the right time, allowing them to offer and receive support in a timely manner. This is why patient engagement technology like GetWell Loop can lead to a 54% reduction in complications and a 45% reduction in readmissions.

The key differentiator of patient engagement technology is that it provides real-time feedback, telling providers not only what happened, but what’s currently happening with a patient. EHRs, as a literal record, do not have this functionality built in. Many aspire to add similar features, but they’re a number of years down the road. It’s very difficult to combine both engagement and empathy into a technological product — but, at the same time, these are key ingredients in the success of a patient engagement platform.

Integration of EHRs with patient engagement

An EHR/patient portal will provide access to records and data. However, it doesn’t guide the patient on what it all means. Without a medical background, the general population doesn’t know how to analyze and process information about things like medications and lab results. 

Patient engagement platforms provide an easy-to-read and friendly format but, more importantly, technology like GetWell Loop does analysis and caters to specific things the patient has going on.

A marriage of the two technologies — an EHR and a patient engagement platform — represents the best of both worlds. Integrating GetWell Loop inside the patient portal, for example, allows for access to records and data along with real-time tracking of and engagement with the patient’s healthcare journey. And, better still, it’s all located in one place — easy for the provider to access, easy for the patient to use.

The bottom line

An EHR does what it does best — present information. And a patient engagement platform does what it does best — engage with patients. When integrated together, the two systems offer a superior experience, providing both static data and real-time check-ins to assist both providers and patients throughout their care journey.