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Leveraging EHRs for patient engagement: perspectives on tailored program outreach

Electronic health records (EHRs) present healthcare delivery systems with scalable, cost-effective opportunities to promote lifestyle programs among patients at high risk for type 2 diabetes, yet little consensus exists on strategies to enhance patient engagement. We explored patient perspectives on program outreach messages containing content tailored to EHR-derived diabetes risk factors-a theory-driven strategy to increase the persuasiveness of health communications. Convergent mixed methods. Within an integrated healthcare delivery system, women with a history of gestational diabetes participated in 1 of 6 ethnic-specific focus groups to elicit diverse perspectives and a survey yielding quantitative data to contextualize qualitative responses. The sample included 35 participants (80% racial/ethnic minorities; mean age = 36 years). Themes regarding tailored messages centered on diabetes risk communication (opposing attitudes about whether to feature diabetes risk factors), privacy (how and whether patient data should be accessed), authenticity (perceiving messages as personalized vs generically computer generated), and preferences for messages sent by one’s personal physician. Trust in the medical profession and perceived risk for diabetes were similar to levels reported in comparable samples. Patient reactions highlight the challenges of leveraging EHRs for tailored messages. Some viewed messages as caring reminders to take preventive action and others raised concerns over intrusiveness. Optimal lifestyle program outreach to improve quality of care for women at high risk for diabetes may require communication from personal physicians, careful development to mitigate concerns over privacy and authenticity, and techniques to counteract the threatening nature of personalized risk communication.

Authors: Brown SD; Grijalva CS; Ferrara A

Am J Manag Care. 2017 Jul 01;23(7):e223-e230. Epub 2017-07-01.

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