Independent physicians use electronic health records (EHRs) to maintain accurate and timely patient medical records. Primary care providers can collaborate with specialty providers, making referrals and reviewing visit notes efficiently without waiting for faxes or returned phone calls. Primary care physicians also encourage their patients to view their own medical records and to communicate electronically through their portal, as they realize using an EHR for patient engagement can also be very effective.
However, a 2017 report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) explains that “relatively few of these patients accessed their records online, and patients typically did so in response to a medical visit.” The report specified that “health care providers that participated in HHS’s Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program offered nearly 9 out of 10 patients the ability to access their health information online.”
Using an EHR for patient engagement can be effective in promoting communication and in encouraging patients to become more involved in their own plan of care. Primary care physicians can use EHRs to engage with their patients by discussing the challenges and the opportunities for the patient during the visit. Many patients actually prefer electronic communication, particularly millennials.
EHRs that offer patients the opportunity to communicate as well as to schedule appointments and pay their bills online will be more enticing to patients who prefer the convenience of electronic access. The key to communication through a patient portal is timely and accurate responses, of course. The primary care physician or a qualified member of the clinical staff must respond to the patient quickly to encourage patients to use the EHR more often.
The primary care physician can also use the EHR for patient engagement by proactively reaching out electronically. For example, the Elation Health Clinical EHR allows the provider to quickly identify patients who aren’t meeting goals based on custom care management protocols, Meaningful Use objectives, or specific document tags, and easily schedule a follow-up appointment to address any potential gaps in care.