According to Buntin et al, Health information technology (HIT) has the potential to improve the health of individuals and the performance of providers, yielding improved quality, cost savings, and greater engagement by patients in their own health care (Buntin et al, 2011). In addition to the countless business benefits, HIT really shines when it comes to patient outcome, satisfaction, and engagement. A relatively broad concept, “patient engagement” refers to both “a patient’s knowledge, skills, ability, and willingness to manage his or her own health and care” and intervention strategies designed to increase activation and promote positive health behaviors (James, 2013). Within its core definition, patient engagement aims for patients to take full ownership of their health. This ownership, combined with technological advancements, can directly lead to increased patient satisfaction.
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The patient engagement movement is relatively new, and is increasingly important given the enormous complexities of modern medicine. Indeed, many patients “struggle to obtain, process, communicate, and understand even basic health information and services” (James, 2013), and too often health providers are not properly trained or equipped to facilitate increased engagement by their patients. It is for that reason; technology has an important role to play in the promotion of patient engagement. With social media applications, mobile applications, online health tools, smart wearable body sensors (SWS), technology is a primary driver in achieving increased patient engagement across the population.
With social media, e-patients can engage in dialogue with other patients and health educators. Various social media platforms can often include patient stories, expert opinions by health professions, and information about what a patient can expect from a particular procedure (Gallant et al., 2011). For example, Facebook walls allow e-patients interact with each other on health inquiries, hospital services and events.
Additionally, mobile applications provide patients the flexibility to access information from remote locations. As a patient, I can access my health record, prescription history, access a drug encyclopedia, or e-mail my doctor directly. This convenience and ease of use allows for not only my increased engagement but also eliminates a need to make a trip to my doctor’s office. A single technological application that can increase engagement, higher satisfaction, and reduce costs. One limitation with this technology is the digital divide, as accessibility among the poor and elderly will need to rise.
Lastly, smart wearable body sensors (SWS) have gained popularity over the years thanks to fitness related devices like the FitBit and Apple Watch. Because SWS allow patients to self-monitor and track their data in real-time, they are uniquely suited to guide patient behavior from the flexibility of home, work or travel. I can monitor and track distance traveled, heartrate, and calories burned with my FitBit application.
There is little doubt that technology has and will continue to impact patient engagement and satisfaction. We need to continue advancements in technology and increase our use of social media, mobile applications, and wearable devices. However, while the future holds much promise, important limitations must be overcome to ensure this potential becomes reality.
Buntin, M., Burke, M., Hoaglin, M., & Blumenthal, D. (2011). The Benefits Of Health Information Technology: A Review Of The Recent Literature Shows Predominantly Positive Results. Health Affairs, 30(3), 464-471. http://dx.doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0178
Gallant, L.M., Irizarry, C., Boone,G. & Krep, G.L. (2011). Promoting Participatory Medicine with Social Media: New Media Application on Hospital Websites that Enhance Health Education and e-Patient’ Voice, Journal of Participatory Medicine; 3.
James, J. (2016). Patient Engagement. Health Affairs – Health Policy Briefs. Retrieved 16 June 2016, from http://www.healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/brief.php?brief_id=86
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