Becky Blevins Develops Creative Strategy to Connect with Patients
Becky Blevins is Information Services Project Manager at Ephraim McDowell Health, a network of facilities in central Kentucky that consists of a regional medical center, a critical access hospital, and specialty and family medical centers in 38 different locations. The health system serves a rural population, with many Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Ms. Blevins plays a critical role in championing Health IT throughout the network. At the Hope Clinic, a community health center within the network that provides free health care to low income patients with chronic diseases, Ms. Blevins and her team are using Health IT to improve patient engagement.
Patient Engagement is Critical for Patients with Chronic Conditions
Before Ms. Blevins and her team introduced Health IT to the Hope Clinic, many of the clinic’s patients were not engaged in their health care. “Many of our patients did not understand exactly how lifestyle changes could affect their health,” explained Ms. Blevins. Furthermore, to qualify for treatment at the Hope Clinic, patients must suffer from a chronic disease such as obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure. The lack of patient engagement, combined with the patients’ complex care needs, was a significant challenge as Ms. Blevins and her team tried to improve health care quality and patient outcomes. “Patient compliance with care instructions was a problem we knew we needed to address,” said Ms. Blevins.
Creative Strategy to Connect with Patients
Ms. Blevins and her team collaborated with the providers at the Hope Clinic to determine how they could use Health IT to increase patient engagement. After meeting several times to discuss potential solutions, they came up with an idea. They would use their electronic health record (EHR) system to create easy-to-understand graphs of individual patient progress over time for important health indicators like blood pressure and cholesterol. During appointments, the providers would then use these graphs to sit down with the patient to review their health status and progress. “If a patient’s blood pressure increases substantially, the provider sits down with the patient to learn more about what is going on in the patient’s life,” explained Ms. Blevins. “The graphs help our providers have more meaningful conversations with patients.” By using Health IT to collect and display patient data in an easy-to-understand way, Ms. Blevins and her team are helping the clinic’s providers improve patient engagement at the Hope Clinic.
Improved Patient Engagement
The increased patient engagement at the Hope Clinic is paying off. Among other improvements, 66% of the Hope Clinic’s patients have decreased their cholesterol level, 57% have lowered their blood pressure, and 48% have reduced their risk for diabetes by lowering their hemoglobin A1c levels. “Our patients are now proactively calling us to discuss laboratory and test results,” said Ms. Blevins. “We have seen a 180-degree change in patient engagement.”
As they prepare for Stage 2 meaningful use, Ms. Blevins and her team are working to implement a patient portal so patients can electronically access and view their graphs, lab results, and medication orders. For Ms. Blevins, successfully launching the patient portal is the next step on Ephraim McDowell Health’s quest to continue to use Health IT in to engage patients and, ultimately, improve patient outcomes.