Greenhalgh T, Wood GW, Bratan T, Stramer K, Hinder S. Patients’ attitudes to the summary care record and HealthSpace: qualitative study [Internet]. BMJ. 2008 Jun 7;336(7656):1290-1295.[cited 2008 Oct 2 ]
This is another article passed to me by Sophia Chang, MD, as it relates to another area of our work together, promoting patient online access in safety net health care organizations.
The work is a qualitative study of attitudes of a group of patients representative of low health literacy, “potentially stigmatising conditions,” or difficulties in accessing health care regarding the National Health Service’ Shared Care Record (SCR), which appears similar to our Continuity of Care Record. It currently has medications, allergies, and adverse reactions, and is scheduled to include a minimum data set. Also discussed with the participants was the HealthSpace, which is a “personal health organizer available via the Internet,” so my guess is, similar to what we call a personal health record.
Despite the fact that 95% of the population in the sample area received a letter informing them about the SCR and HealthSpace, there is very little recall of SCR, HealthSpace, or even the letter itself (14 %). Some of the useful points for us to think about for a safety-net population:
- People without “potentially stigmatising conditions” including their official advocates (required to be included in the study) were unfavorably disposed to the SCR. However, people who actually had these conditions felt the benefit outweighed the risk. The authors highlighted this discrepancy even more by citing advocates as “people who claimed to speak for vulnerable groups.” It is in interesting what we find when we talk to the patients themselves.
- Speaking of patient involvement, it is not clear from the article how and if patients were involved in developing the materials mailed to community residents. Clearly this is a very complex program and from the comments it appears that explaining the SCR and HealthSpace is akin to explaining how the health care system works in general. It’s a great magnifier of problems elsewhere perhaps.
- “Empowerment” versus “Engagement” – comments suggest that those who are actually less engaged have more favorable opinions of SCR and unfavorable opinions of HealthSpace, indicating that they see the SCR as an advantage in reducing personal responsibility. The authors say this should be discussed further, and cite the work of Judith Hibbard and findings that “empowerment” may require cognitive skills that “not all citizens possess.”I suppose what I make of this is the idea that by itself, these technologies don’t create engaged behavior in patients that we expect. At the same time, I’ve discussed the idea that they do create different behavior in the clinicians who are accountable them.
So how would I apply the information here in the promotion of patient online access in the safety net? I might think about involving patients in the design of systems up front, to make sure that the features are compelling to them. I would convene focus groups (maybe with the support of an interested funder) to look at everything including marketing materials and approach to make sure that efforts aren’t wasted.
This article is a helpful reminder that even with the best intentions, those who design programs don’t live the lives of those who should benefit from them, and as I tweeted recently, people with chronic illnesses think about them for longer than the time they visit a medical center or log into a web site.