Biopharma: EHRs – A New Dissemination Tool

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HIT Perspectives Biopharma Insights – September 2016

EHRs: A New Dissemination Tool for Patient Education Materials

By Brian Bamberger, Practice Lead, Life Science

Pharmaceutical companies have invested substantially to produce patient education materials about specific conditions. These materials are made available to physicians to distribute to their patients.  Pharmaceutical brand teams have traditionally used a number of methods to get these materials in physicians’ hands. There is a new opportunity that they might be overlooking: using electronic health records (EHRs) in the physician’s office in conjunction with a systematic approach to support existing physician efforts for educating patients.

EHRs are now a critical component of ambulatory practice. Recent statistics show that about 80% of office-based physicians use EHRs. This widespread adoption and use of EHRs are due in large part to the federal meaningful use (MU) EHR incentive program. MU first incentivized physicians to adopt EHRs and then required them to report their use in order to garner incentive payments and avoid Medicare payment penalties. Private payers, including accountable care organizations, have begun to mandate use of EHRs as part of quality and payment metrics for pay for performance.

MU also requires that physicians provide educational materials to patients via EHRs. For example, one objective specifies that providers must use clinically relevant information from certified EHR technology to identify patient-specific educational resources and provide them to patients. In addition, MU calls for providers to directly engage patients in their care through electronic means, such as EHRs and patient portals.

How it could work. Making educational materials available through the EHR is not complicated.

First, the pharmaceutical account manager or sales team has to achieve the clinician’s buy-in to use the company-provided patient education materials. Achieving buy-in should not be challenging given that patient education is a MU measure and patient engagement is widely recognized as beneficial for care quality.

Once buy-in occurs, the account manager and sales representative can work with the office’s information technology (IT) staff to incorporate the materials directly into the EHR. In small practices, the IT contact may be the office manager or practice administrator. Large practices may have dedicated staff for their IT needs or use consultants.

Once this has been done, the physician can print the information on demand during a patient visit or the patient can access the materials through the office’s patient portal, which currently is the way most practices provide patients with administrative and clinical information. Clinical information within an EHR can help the physician target patient-specific educational materials that are posted.

Some work is required on the pharmaceutical company’s part. First, a variety of presentation formats are required. For example, some systems aren’t optimized for outside PDFs. Inclusion of content in an HTML or RTF format allows inclusion with other patient instructions.

Second, the company should make educational materials easy to obtain and ideally have a method to update content as new guidelines and best practices are developed.

Finally, the pharmaceutical company should make its content an augmentation of practice resources and not use the materials to develop relationships with patients without physician practice involvement. Too many patient education goals are centered on signing up and educating patients without physician and practice involvement. This makes practice staff wary when patients question physician choices based on what they’ve read in physician-provided but pharmaceutical company-directed content. Physician practices are more likely to integrate materials when their practice’s logo is larger than the pharmaceutical company branding.

Why it would work. Making educational materials available through the EHR is a win-win for both providers and pharmaceutical companies.

For providers, this approach:

  • Can easily be made part of the work flow during an office visit to supplement purchased resources already present.
  • Provides specific, in-depth and current information for patients to supplement materials currently available in the EHR.
  • Helps satisfy MU and pay-for-performance requirements for both public and private payers.
  • Eliminates the need to stock volumes of paper handouts, which have already been eliminated in most practices.
  • Provides patients and caregivers with the targeted and varied types of patient information at different stages of therapy and disease state. This should improve patient outcomes and increase satisfaction, both of which are pay-for-performance metrics.
  • Could help patients improve medication adherence. Nonadherence leads to adverse outcomes, avoidable hospitalizations, excess office visits, unnecessary nursing home admissions and premature deaths. These also are criteria by which physicians are measured in terms of pay for performance.
  •  Explains how a medication works and how it addresses a disease, which are important functions in medication adherence.

For pharmaceutical companies, making educational materials available through the EHR enables the sales team to:

  • Provide a curriculum of high-quality, comprehensive content that is engaging and actionable by the patient.
  • Easily provide current content and information about treatment best practices.
  • Create and/or deepen relationships with physicians and office staff.Help physicians maximize their time spent with patients during the office visit.
  •  Build loyalty and trust.
  •  Improve sales and patient retention.

Point-of-Care Partners can work with your brand team, patient education efforts and sales force to make the EHR a regular and successful distribution channel for educational materials. For example, we can develop easy-to-use uploading instructions that are EHR specific — a necessity now that there are several hundred EHR products currently in the market. Drop me an email or give us a call. Our knowledgeable and experienced staff are here to help.