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Patient Engagement Guide for Physicians in Ambulatory Care: A Review of the Literature

Author: Shannon Vogel, BA, FHIMSS

Primary Advisor: Juliana Brixey, PhD, MPH, MSN, RN

Committee Members:

Masters thesis, The University of Texas Health Science Center School of Health Information Sciences at Houston.


Allowing patients to have access to more information about their health treatments and plans is now a requirement for physicians participating in the federal meaningful use program, and is referred to as patient engagement. A review of the literature reveals that the marketplace is responding to patient engagement requirements with myriad tools that can be integrated into the physician's workflow as they electronically communicate with their patients. Some of these electronic tools, such as personal health records, are controlled by the patient while others, such as patient portals, are controlled by the physician. The objective of this review of the literature is to inform physicians practicing in the ambulatory setting of electronic tools available to engage their patients, and how those tools are best utilized in the practice. As an example, a physician may want to provide in writing the treatment plan for the patient to avoid any ambiguities. Another example is providing patients with their lab results or other key health information to indicate trending, which may affect patient behavior. Ambulatory care physician practices are not yet finding the right value proposition to justify their concern with risk which is causing adoption to occur slowly (Witry, 2010). More research is still needed on how outcomes are impacted when patients take a greater role in their own health and use data to affect change in their own behaviors. The access to personal health information must be balanced with patient preferences and HIP AA compliance.

Keywords: Patient engagement; personal health records; patient portals; direct project, blue button.