Patient Engagement: Health IT, What Microsoft Health Users Group Exchange Means for you

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

How important is Health IT to you and should you care?

At the Microsoft Health Users Group Exchange this month at the Microsoft Corporate Campus in Redmond, WA, patient engagement was the overall theme.

Whether presenters were talking about “Cloud Computing,” “Care Coordination,” or “Population Health Management,” empowering the patient was the paradigm.

“At the end of the day, we’re all patients,” Bill Crounse, MD, keynote speaker and Senior Director, Worldwide Health of Microsoft Corporation, Executive Producer, Health Tech Today, and blogger at Health Blog, said.  “People don’t get all that enthused about their health until they get sick or their loved one gets sick,” he added.

While there were many useful and informative presentations focusing on modernizing health information, embracing mobility, managing data, leveraging technology, re-designing work flow, to transforming health through health information technology, to electronic health records and cloud computing; the one common denominator was the patient (or health consumer).

What this means for you

Since the one constant is you, the consumer, the need to include you through the health ecosystem and technology road map is paramount for companies building their brands and making head way in this lightning fast technological world.

Consumers need to be engaged from the ground up.  While companies and institutions focus on improving health and wellness, they need to get close to the consumer, engage them, their opinions and respond to their needs.

If companies don’t seek out the consumers in a real and transparent way, technology almost becomes sterile.

While better outcomes and quality patient care is the backbone of any hospital or health care organization, implementing technology that makes consumers’ lives better, simply makes sense.

I asked Praveen Soti, MD, MBA, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at CGI Federal and Board Chair of the MSHUG Advisory Committee, how important is patient engagement when it comes to health care technology.

No matter what technology solution one implements, one fact is constant, “patients will only trust their physician or loved ones when it comes to making healthcare decisions.”  Patient engagement is absolutely vital for achieving sustained improvements in quality of care and cost savings, he said.

Today’s patients

Today’s patients are savvy health care consumers, proactive and empowered patients.  They are knowledgeable and they want a collaborative respectful relationship with their providers and physicians.

In fact, “Gallup’s extensive research has identified the crucial characteristics of the emotional connections between healthcare providers and their best patients. These patients are not just “satisfied” or “loyal,” they are emotionally attached to the provider’s brands or services. They are engaged.”

Fascinated with the wide array of presentations, the one presentation that moved and inspired me was Microsoft’s Health Tech Today’s host, and keynote speaker, Bill Crounse, MD since he focused heavily on individuals.

Why is managing your health information for the engaged patient important?

Managing your health information is critical for organized and collaborative care.  Many times, people visit different doctors, take a variety of medications and at times undergo various tests.  By keeping track of all your health data in one place; it makes it easy to simply view your health information and share it in a safe and private way.

A platform for consumers to handle their health information

While federal health IT initiatives are underway for health care systems to implement the electronic health record (EHR), Microsoft has developed a platform designed to put consumers at the center of handling their health information.  That platform is HealthVault, a personal health application allows consumers to be in charge of their health and health information.

With HealthVault, you can collect, store and share your health information online and for health organizations it can deliver connected health solutions to help their patients and clients better manage their health; (presented by speaker, Paul E. Smolke, Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation).

In Mr. Smolke’s presentation, he quotes Aurelia Boyer, RN Chief Information Officer at New York- Presbyterian Hospital.

“With the connection of Amalga, which aggregates data across the New York-Presbyterian enterprise, and Health Vault, which allows patients to aggregate and share their data across the healthcare ecosystem, Microsoft has provided a unique opportunity for us to put our patients first and to empower them to manage their healthcare.”

You can create a free account on HealthVault and begin your journey into the world of technology by using tools to keep you and your family’s health records organized and accessible.  You can choose to share this data with your doctor, with your family and caregivers.  You can upload data through a health and fitness device, track your information, track your prescriptions, connect with your pharmacy and manage your chronic conditions.

The best part, you can print out your latest health data and bring it with you (along with your list of questions) to your next doctor’s visit.  This will empower you to be proactive and to take charge of your health.

Enthused, Motivated, Proactive and Empowered

While it may be true that many people don’t become enthused with their health until they become sick or their loved one gets sick, as Dr. Crounse mentioned,  by being empowered to take charge of your health, it’s possible to become enthused and motivated about health, by focusing on healthy living and being organized with your own health data.

So while companies forge ahead developing cutting-edge technology to help improve the lives of consumers and find solutions for better patient outcomes; companies have you in mind.

Complete transparency

And, while I’m a huge fan of HealthVault, I have not yet set up an account.  When I do, I will let you know my experience.

Your turn

We would love to hear from you.  What are your thoughts on health information technology (Health IT)?  Do you care?  Do you use a personals health record to manage your health information?  What’s your experience like?  What would you like companies to be aware of when it comes to your health?  Please share your stories with us.

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