Barriers to Patient Engagement

The EHR effort, and patient engagement initiatives in particular, are meant to transform healthcare in a meaningful way. But the concept is not new. While there are different degrees of patient interaction, for example, several hospitals have made efforts to offer patients electronic access to their own records as well as personal electronic communication with their provider. And people have observed that patients with greater involvement in their own healthcare are, on the whole, healthier.  However, as we have pointed out, despite these efforts at larger organizations to create a patient engagement system, the goals set out under Meaningful Use require very little achievement. A larger effort must be made throughout the healthcare system in order to push further patient engagement.

This raises an important question. If so many elements of the healthcare process are interested in pushing patient engagement, what are the barriers to moving forward? To begin to find an answer to this question, we can explore the interconnecting elements that make up the healthcare system. They can be loosely categorized into three: Providers, Patients, and Administrators. Administrators does not just include people running a hospital, but also the people responsible for creating and selecting Electronic Health Records, as well as government elements and those that control the purse strings.

Former surgeon general C. Everett Koop once observed, “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” This can apply here as well. If we cannot get patients engaged, we cannot fully reap the benefits of the EHR. Each participant within the healthcare field, as well as relationships and interactions between them, can potentially have its own barriers to moving forward. In the next few posts, we will address some of these barriers.


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