Efforts to Embed Exercise in EHRs Improves Patient Care, Quality: Study

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

“Your blood pressure, pulse, temperature are all normal, but your exercise level is low. Let’s talk about this further.”

This might be a potential new line of discussion in the doctor’s office, if exercise habits join the fray of typical vital statistics now taken in routine outpatient medical visits. A new initiative created by Kaiser Permanente systematically records patients’ exercise data into their EHRs, giving clinicians the opportunity to counsel them during these routine visits if it turns out they are not meeting national guidelines for physical activity. Designed to maximize findings showing the correlation between regular exercise and better health, the tool also has the potential to provide information about the relationship between exercise and healthcare utilization, cost and chronic disease, researchers say.

Helping patients overcome their objections to taking medication could vastly improve their medication adherence levels, says a new report from the University of Missouri. Studies show that nearly half of all patients taking medications for chronic conditions do not follow their prescribed medication regimens because of fears of long-term effects and dependency, among other concerns. But failure to use medications as directed increases patients’ risk for side effects, hospitalizations, reduced quality of life and shortened lifespans, the report states.

The study focused on older patients with high blood pressure, a condition that affects nearly 70 million adults in the United States and can lead to heart disease and stroke. It found that patients rejected medication in favor of other methods that had been proven successful in treating high blood pressure, like walking or cutting down on salt. Physicians need to be more proactive in helping patients amend their behaviors.

Those dealing with the advanced ill can help them to better manage their situations with education and emotional support, says Dr. Joseph Agostini, senior medical director of Aetna Medicare about Aetna’s Compassionate Care program. A lack of understanding about care options is one of the primary barriers when dealing with end-of-life patients; once options are in place, getting all parties to agree about a treatment plan is another.

Medicare beneficiaries’ care and savings will improve significantly when new ACA-enacted Medicare policies are rolled out between now and 2014, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. The new policies will reward four- and five-star plans and cut $12.7 billion in annual overpayments to private plans with three major changes, including rewards for quality and new benchmark rates.

Read all of these stories in their entirety in this week’s Healthcare Business Weekly Update.

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