Playbooks Aren’t Just for Sports Teams: Helping Providers and Patients Work Together with Health IT

Thomas A. Mason | June 2, 2016

Clinicians and other health care providers practice medicine with the noble goal of improving patient outcomes. The day-to-day considerations in treating patients are complex, which is where technology can be leveraged to streamline and better inform the patient-provider interaction.

Earlier this week, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released new data showing that 96 percent of the nation’s hospitals have adopted certified health information technology (IT), such as electronic health records (EHRs), and many of them are sharing this information with their patients. In fact, we recently reported the number of US hospitals that offer patient engagement EHR functionalities has grown significantly. In 2014, six of ten hospitals provided patients with the ability to electronically view, download, and transmit their health information, a six-fold increase since 2013.

When clinicians engage patients through health IT, they realize a reduced burden on office staff, improved responsiveness to patients’ needs, lower utilization of health services, more engaged and informed patients, and generally more effective delivery of care. However, clinicians still face challenges accessing and viewing their health information online for a variety of reasons, from confusion about privacy and security considerations, to cumbersome enrollment processes.

As part of our efforts to provide tools and resources to help health care providers, we are excited to release the Patient Engagement Playbook for Providers, an online tool for doctors, nurses, other clinicians, practice staff, hospital administrators and others who wish to leverage health IT to actively engage patients in their health and care.

Why a “playbook?” Playbooks aren’t just static instruction manuals — they’re constantly-evolving sets of strategies and approaches. Successful coaches update their playbooks regularly, and each iteration reflects new, innovative solutions to shifting circumstances.

In this release of the first phase of the Patient Engagement Playbook for Providers, we begin by demystifying patient portals and describe how you can make them work for you and your patients. We’ve compiled best practices and home-grown solutions from innovative providers and health systems around the country. There’s much to learn from analyzing these bright spots and scaling their success.

This first phase of the Playbook focuses on four key elements designed to help improve patient engagement:

  • Outlines best practices to enroll patients in provider patient portals,
  • Offers tips on streamlining functionality of patient portals and indicates top features which should be adopted — including making appointments online, securing information, and sharing notes,
  • Explains how and why to grant caregivers proxy access to patient portals, and
  • Discusses how and why to track patient generated health data in order to improve clinical decision-making and care delivery.

Engaging patients can empower them to better manage their health and care. Since the Playbook is an evolving collection of strategies and new approaches for improving the patient experience, we welcome your input to help us update and improve the content. This Playbook is one part of a larger health IT playbook that will be launched later this year.

Review the Patient Engagement Playbook for Providers here:

You can also subscribe to receive updates to the Playbook at