Posted on: August 3, 2018

A pilot program between Hixny and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Center asked patients already enrolled in a self-monitored blood pressure program to track their blood pressure readings in the Hixny For You patient portal. Several dozen patients and staff jumped at the chance to become more active participants in their care—with unexpected and encouraging results.

Hixny Manager of Population Health & Data Quality, Tavia Rauch, MS, CRT, AE-C, and Hixny’s then-intern Julia Prusik, MPH, designed a study to measure how effective the Hixny For You portal would be in helping patients with hypertension track their blood pressure. They chose that topic for its broad relevance and potential impact, since the  Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 75 million Americans have hypertension, which is significantly elevated blood pressure, and a recent study links increased patient engagement with decreased blood pressure.

Participants received personal instruction about how to use Hixny For You. The patient portal allows patients to safely and securely view, download and transmit their electronic medical records, and to enter self-monitored data. It empowers patients to take a proactive role in managing their own health.

Then, participants were instructed to enter their blood pressure readings twice each day, following nationally recognized standards for blood pressure self-monitoring. They were already familiar with the process of measuring their blood pressure and had been provided with a monitor to use at home.

Sixty percent of participants successfully entered blood pressure readings on at least three consecutive days. Among these users, 100 percent reported that their experience with the portal was good, very good or great.

Many were so satisfied that they went on to use the portal to help manage various other health conditions. Without prompting from Hixny or Whitney Young staff members, several participants began tracking their self-monitored weight and blood glucose levels in Hixny For You. This trend aligns with data from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) that shows 80 percent of patientswho accessed their health data found the access useful.

The pilot successfully incorporated two factors that a recent study out of the University of Pittsburgh found crucial to patient engagement with a portal: provider endorsement and ease of use.

Hixny is dedicated to encouraging both patient and provider engagement with health data. According to Rauch, the pilot was designed based on best practices that ensured the data was clinically relevant and actionable to providers, while flowing seamlessly from the patient portal to provider portal. “We are closing the loop on home monitoring,” she said.

To introduce more patients to Hixny For You and assist providers in their engagement efforts, Prusik, now a Hixny program coordinator, hopes to create training materials and videos to walk patients through sign-up and use.

But, does this convenience and empowerment lead to better health outcomes?

Absolutely, Prusik said, pointing to research that showed self-monitoring and active use of a patient portal can lead to a decrease of more than five points in patients’ diastolic blood pressure readings, on average. Active portal users have also been shown to be 24 percent more likely to achieve blood pressure control.

“It’s motivating to be able to see changes in real-time,” explained Prusik. “When someone sees those numbers consistently go down, as the result of their hard work eating less salt, decreasing caffeine intake and more, it encourages them to keep it up. The provider being in the patient’s corner and cheering them on is a huge motivator, too. It’s a true team-based approach.”

Hixny For You makes it easy for patients to stay engaged and communicate with their providers. And an engaged patient is at the heart of an effective care team.