Hospitalists see patients at their most fragile – and, as a result, they have a unique opportunity to affect their health going forward.
“These moments can transform the way patients see their health and their behaviors, and any opportunity to position patients as empowered to influence their experience is one that can not be squandered,” said Timothy Huerta, PhD, MS, lead author on a study of patient portals and tablets during inpatient care.1 “In that context, hospitals have the opportunity to set expectations for engagement that can be influenced by technology. Patient portals, positioned within the inpatient setting, offer a platform to engage, empower, and educate.”
His experience – at the first and largest academic medical center to provide this technology across the entire hospital system – offers the first insight into the demands that such a process shift requires, he said. The researchers ran a 90-day pilot program giving tablets to 179 patients; subsequently, the health system committed to providing tablets for accessing inpatient portals in all seven of its hospitals. “Adopting this technology is not easy, and we continue to explore how we can use it more effectively. Our hope is that our experience can make the journey of others easier.”
Providing the technology is a necessary but insufficient component of implementation, he added. “This is not like the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ – if you build it they will come. It requires leaders to see the value proposition, champions throughout the organization to make a reality where the technology matters to the provision of care, and clinicians to see the tool as a means to a greater good.”
In hospitals, nursing staff and hospitalists are likely to be most impacted by the addition of these tools. “They will require choices – for example who will respond on what timeline to patient communication when using these tools – which requires collaboration across the institution.”
1. Huerta T, McAlearney AS, Rizer MK. “Introducing a Patient Portal and Electronic Tablets to Inpatient Care.” Ann Intern Med. 2017;167(11):816-7.