Patient Reminders and Notifications (Washington)

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Patient reminders and notifications can help individuals manage their health and healthcare goals by alerting them to schedule medical visits and screenings, reminding them how to take complex medical regimens, and serving as a liaison between patients, providers, and the healthcare system. They also inform patients of test results and other chronic care or preventive services. Despite their potential utility, little is known about how to best design and deliver effective patient reminders and notifications that address the range of patients’ healthcare needs. To design optimal systems, researchers must address usability, safeguard patient confidentiality, and incorporate the capacity of emerging communication technologies such as social media, text messaging, and mobile applications to interact daily with patients.

This study identified user needs, preferences, and capabilities for a health reminder and notification system by focusing on two populations of patients with disparate chronic and preventive care needs. One population was mothers who manage care for their children with asthma under the age of 12. The second was patients with diabetes and other chronic conditions, including hypertension and coronary artery disease.

The specific aims of the project were as follows:

  • Establish the needs and preferences of patients for notifications and reminders by studying patient workflow models, user requirements, personal communication patterns, and contextual factors. 
  • Build and test a prototype of a patient-controlled health reminder and notification system using iterative rapid prototyping and other user-centered design methods to clarify core design elements and establish the feasibility of integration with the patient-centered medical home. 

Researchers conducted interviews and design workshops with healthcare providers and the two target populations to elicit innovative functional requirements for an enhanced reminder and notification system. Using data from the needs assessment, they developed and tested iterative prototypes of the system with updated functionality. Investigators found that simple design changes, such as status indicators on a reminder for a task received over a patient website, could substantially improve communication with patients and may improve the effectiveness of care. Findings indicated that reminders for healthcare tasks needed to reflect a patients’ values and a shared understanding of healthcare goals and tasks established during collaboration with a healthcare provider. These design principles can help guide providers and developers toward more effective and patient-centered care.

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Patient Reminders and Notifications - Final Report

Ralston J. Patient Reminders and Notifications - Final Report. (Prepared by Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute under Grant No. R01 HS021590). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2017. (PDF, 557.74 KB)

The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the author(s), who are responsible for its content, and do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. No statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 
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