By Sima Marzban, MD, PhD, MPH
The relationships between patients and healthcare providers and intermediaries (healthcare providers, manufacturers, and insurers) have been transformed in recent years based on the patient-centered paradigm, where patients are expected to play an active role in their health and wellness. Patient engagement is based on the principle that providers work with patients instead of for patients or on patients. It’s a rationale that changes the role of the patient from a care receiver to an active consumer of services.
A fully engaged patient:
- Expresses needs and personalized concerns.
- Seeks objective and credible information.
- Learns about disease and preventive actions.
- Demands transparency.
- Actively participates in shared decisions based on informed treatment options.
- Changes lifestyles and habits to obtain favorable outcomes.
- Informs preferences for knowledge and interactions.
- Partners with and contributes to designing the optimal health plan to best suit their lifestyle.
- Evaluates individual and service-related processes and outcomes.
When utilizing all of the functions listed above, patients take control of both their health status and treatment options. To create more fully engaged patients, health stakeholders should provide an environment that supports an activated patient by:
- Creating a patient engagement strategy comprised of both written policies and organizational goals.
- Implementing patient engagement objectives, including educating staff, building culture and teams, as well as assessing, measuring, and evaluating activities.
- Informing patients of their expected new role as an engaged patient by educating them on how to be more involved in decision making, motivating and rewarding their engagement, encouraging their feedback in designing their health and wellness plans, seeking their advice on patient advisory boards, and setting realistic expectations for them to become more engaged over time.
This triad of creating a strategy, implementing the plan, and informing patients is necessary to support and appreciate the patients in their new, active roles. Actively listening to the voice of engaged patients and implementing many of their suggestions and ideas will inevitably lead to overall improvements in care delivery.
Recognizing there may be several barriers to reaching a goal of fully engaged patients, such as social determinants of health that include education, health literacy, housing, nutrition, culture and other environmental factors, it’s important to include ways to overcome these challenges in your implementation plan.
Evidence has shown that patient engagement improves the quality of care through more success in these areas such as:
- Improving patient behavior, lifestyles, adherence to treatment, and outcomes.
- Changing provider actions, behaviors, and interaction methods.
- Developing organizational policies, design, and care processes.
In addition, patient engagement lowers overall healthcare costs by influencing a variety of factors, such as:
- Reducing medical errors, readmission rates, adherence issues, and adverse outcomes/
- Enhancing services with lower waste, non-value-added activities and resources.
Patient engagement could be improved if providers, manufacturers, and insurers will pursue the following:
- Analyze their current situation through data capture of patient insights, such as their stories, experiences, journey maps, empathy maps, information assessments, decision maps, behavioral graphs, emotional maps, wellness indices, mental health trends, reported outcomes, and quality of life changes.
- Assess their current situation using a patient engagement organizational value assessment toolkit and patient engagement benchmark studies.
- Identify areas for improvement through patient insights analysis, such as changes in policies, culture, clinical team education, activities and measures, as well as standards for patient engagement.
- Implement improvement designs, such as creating patient education programs, developing new policies and procedures, driving patient involvement programs, investing in data capture and analysis technologies, and setting benchmarks that involve patients.
- Evaluate effectiveness of programs through partnerships with both patients and providers.
Clear Point Health is proud to offer a suite of services that are central to improving patient engagement for industry and providers. Contact us today to learn more about all of the strategies discussed in this article.