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I may sound like a broken record because I’ve blogged on this topic before, but it’s that frustrating.

Jordan Dolin, Co-Founder Emmi Solutions Jordan Dolin, Co-Founder
Emmi Solutions

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again because, at the end of the day, there’s been little action on the issue and it’s an issue that truly matters….

We need clarity surrounding “patient engagement,” because in its current, undefined state, it’s doing everyone a disservice – especially patients.

Since the industry can’t seem to reach a consensus on what patient engagement is, we have to at least take steps toward providing clarity about what patient engagement needs to do.

Action and Advertising
In one sense, you should think of patient engagement like advertising, a process to present messages to a group of people in hope of changing their behavior.

Engagement, like advertising, is a means to an end, so we need to focus on the end rather than the process.

Consider this scenario:

McDonalds Corporation would never go to Leo Burnett and simply say they want to purchase millions of dollars’ worth of advertising. Instead, they’d ask Burnett to help them achieve a specific business objective, such as measurably boost breakfast sales or increasing awareness of their new menu items.

Engagement is the same. It is a process intended to drive an outcome and delivering on this process is what we should be measuring success by.

Today, practically anything in front of a patient is called “engagement,” but calling something “engagement” and actually engaging people are two very different things.

An Index for Engagement?
Recently we’ve learned that Axial Exchange and Becker's Hospital Review have teamed up to offer the “first national patient engagement index.”

The announcement stated, “PEI scores will be evaluated by examining providers' patient engagement efforts and personal health management promotion efforts. Top points will be awarded to organizations that "not only offer electronic access to patient health records, but also provide resources for ongoing health management support — including mobile, tablet and desktop tools.”

While I applaud the effort, and am happy to see a more formalized approach to measuring patient engagement, an objective rating system should focus on measuring outcomes, not features.

The fact that a patient can have access to their medical record hardly constitutes engagement. It’s like a book that’s never opened – Can you say you’re engaged for simply having owned it?
Similarly, buying a car that doesn’t run just because it’s cheaper will save you money, but it certainly won’t address your transportation needs.

Healthcare organizations need the ability to make solution purchasing decisions based on objective and credible economic measures, so we need an assessment tool that can quantifiably tell them which vendors are most likely to meet their needs.

And, in my opinion, what better way to evaluate available solutions than by using a Consumer Reports-type assessment that measures how vendors DELIVER against key population health & hospital metrics (ACO, HCAHPS, etc.) not how they ALIGN with them.

Hospitals and health systems are increasingly accountable for outcomes and the vendors that sell to them should be held to the same standard.

An index should clearly communicate and rank vendor capability. Can they and have they been proven to:

  • Increase screening rates?
  • Improve HEDIS measures?
  • Engage patients to take more active roles in their care based on factors like appointment attendance rates?

Healthcare is a business and, like any other industry, we’d expect decisions to be made on sound, objective data, not marketing hyperbole of what is offered and what it can do.

Patient engagement is going to play a critical role in the future of healthcare, and providing the industry with an objective ranking tool would be a great benefit to everyone.