no secret patients want to feel in control of their health care—they want it to be easy to manage while ensuring their needs are being prioritized. University of Utah Health is finding ways to reduce the patient’s burden of managing health care by creating a seamless experience that is efficient for both patients and providers.
Asking patients and caregivers to share their lived experiences ensures that our efforts and hard work actually deliver what patients want. When we include our patients in our planning, we often avoid pitfalls and co-design better solutions.
Over the past couple of months, the Patient Design Studio and Advise Utah (U of U Health’s patient family advisory councils), asked patient designers about recent updates to MyChart and health maintenance item reminders (e.g. vaccinations, labs, wellness checks, etc.). Here’s what they had to say.
MyChart messages and updates
For many patients, MyChart is the main method of communication for contacting their providers. The number of MyChart messages sent to providers has increased tremendously over the past five years, overwhelming care teams. Although MyChart is meant to be used for accessing individual health info, answering basic questions, and handling simple requests, it is often used for in-depth discussions about complex medical care. The aim is to deploy a sustainable model for patient communications to support patient experience and provider resilience.
We asked the designers for feedback on updates made to MyChart messages and new features added, such as messaging transparency, appointment scheduling, and After Visit Summary emphasis.
Here's what the designers said:
Patients enjoy using MyChart to manage their health care but have a difficult time keeping up with updates and new features (and old ones too). Instructional videos or educational materials illustrating how to use new features as they are added would help patients take advantage of these updates.
Patients are confused about what topics/issues are acceptable to send messages about, especially regarding urgent or emergent issues. Patient education on “what to” and “what not to” message providers about would help clear up the confusion and help them better understand appropriate topics for MyChart messaging.
For patients to use MyChart features, accurate information (medications for refill, complete AVS summaries, etc.) must be entered into the system. Patients find it difficult to transfer their health information between different care teams (and outside providers), especially when information is inaccurate.
Messages between patients and their numerous providers feel disjointed. Patients want to know that providers have reviewed their health information and what other providers have messaged to ensure everything is accurate and the care plan is safe.
By building awareness around the many MyChart features and ensuring information is accurate and accessible across care teams, patients will be able to use MyChart and its messaging platform to the fullest capacity.
Health maintenance item reminders
U of U Health reaches out to patients when they are coming due or are overdue for health maintenance items (i.e., vaccines, labs, tests, screenings, wellness visits, and exams. etc.). A lot of time and energy go into knowing which patients need outreach, and then contacting those patients. We set out to learn how effective this outreach is, if it is bothersome to patients, and if patients need these care reminders. The aim is to design a program that empowers patients to take action from the outreach they receive.
Here's what the designers said:
Patients want to know what preventive maintenance items are suggested, even though they may not act on them. They want a central space in MyChart where they can access a list of items and see what is pending/scheduled. They also want the ability to pause a reminder to review later and complete a reminder—by checking a box—once they have acted on it (i.e., scheduled or decided to forgo).
Patients want to receive outreach reminders far enough in advance so they can schedule an appointment by the time the item is due. In order to align reminders with provider availability, they feel the outreach and scheduling processes should be automated and integrated. They want to be able to schedule items directly from the reminders.
Patients want education around MyChart and its features. Many patients are unaware of the notification and scheduling features already available. They want the education to consider the different ways patients access MyChart (i.e., web browser, in the app, iOS vs. Android vs. Pixel).
Patients wonder if the onus of managing and scheduling health maintenance items is on U of U Health or the patient. They want health items to be tracked automatically in MyChart in addition to having their provider review items with them during appointments.
Patients have the ability to be more active in their health care through MyChart, but they need support in learning how to use the features and transparency about the process. By integrating reminders across MyChart and care teams, we can provide patients with an individualized, whole-health service.