High Touch and High Tech (HT2) Proposal: Transforming Patient Engagement Throughout the Continuum of Care by Engaging Patients with Portal Technology at the Bedside.

McAlearney AS, Sieck CJ, Hefner JL, Aldrich AM, Walker DM, Rizer MK, Moffatt-Bruce SD, Huerta TR
JMIR Res Protoc 5 e221 11/29/2016


BACKGROUND: For patients with complex care needs, engagement in disease management activities is critical. Chronic illnesses touch almost every person in the United States. The costs are real, personal, and pervasive. In response, patients often seek tools to help them manage their health. Patient portals, personal health records tethered to an electronic health record, show promise as tools that patients value and that can improve health. Although patient portals currently focus on the outpatient experience, the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC) has deployed a portal designed specifically for the inpatient experience that is connected to the ambulatory patient portal available after discharge. While this inpatient technology is in active use at only one other hospital in the United States, health care facilities are currently investing in infrastructure necessary to support large-scale deployment. Times of acute crisis such as hospitalization may increase a patient's focus on his/her health. During this time, patients may be more engaged with their care and especially interested in using tools to manage their health after discharge. Evidence shows that enhanced patient self-management can lead to better control of chronic illness. Patient portals may serve as a mechanism to facilitate increased engagement.

OBJECTIVE: The specific aims of our study are (1) to investigate the independent effects of providing both High Tech and High Touch interventions on patient-reported outcomes at discharge, including patients' self-efficacy for managing chronic conditions and satisfaction with care; and (2) to conduct a mixed-methods analysis to determine how providing patients with access to MyChart Bedside (MCB, High Tech) and training/education on patient portals, and MyChart Ambulatory (MCA, High Touch) will influence engagement with the patient portal and relate to longer-term outcomes.

METHODS: Our proposed 4-year study uses a mixed-methods research (MMR) approach to evaluate a randomized controlled trial studying the effectiveness of a High Tech intervention (MCB, the inpatient portal), and an accompanying High Touch intervention (training patients to use the portal to manage their care and conditions) in a sample of hospitalized patients with two or more chronic conditions. This study measures how access to a patient portal tailored to the inpatient stay can improve patient experience and increase patient engagement by (1) improving patients' perceptions of the process of care while in the hospital; (2) increasing patients' self-efficacy for managing chronic conditions; and (3) facilitating continued use of a patient portal for care management after discharge. In addition, we aim to enhance patients' use of the portal available to outpatients (MCA) once they are discharged.

RESULTS: This study has been funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Research is ongoing and expected to conclude in August 2019.

CONCLUSIONS: Providing patients real-time access to health information can be a positive force for change in the way care is provided. Meaningful use policies require minimum demonstrated use of patient portal technology, most often in the ambulatory setting. However, as the technology matures to bridge the care transition, there is a greater need to understand how patient portals transform care delivery. By working in concert with patients to address and extend current technologies, our study aims to advance efforts to increase patients' engagement in their care and develop a template for how other hospitals might integrate similar technologies.

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