Engaging Patients and their Families in their Healthcare is the Way of the Future

Engaging Patients and their Families in their Healthcare is the Way of the Future

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How can increasing patient engagement improve the quality of care the patient is receiving?

Patient engagement is more than the latest catch phrase; it holds the potential to improve health outcomes, ensure right use of medical services and reduce costs for everyone involved.

When we talk about patient engagement, we define it as a collaboration of patients, clinicians and caregivers work together toward mutually agreed upon health goals. It’s often not how the system works now.

Engaging patients and their families in a patient’s health care is a major goal of the EHR Incentive (or Meaningful Use) program. While electronic copies and patient portals are a start, there is much more potential. It means using technology in a way to identify and provide the right health resources and education to patients and caregivers.

It’s one thing to provide information, patients need knowledge. With that knowledge, they can improve self-management, take a more active role in decision making, reduce healthcare costs through right care, right place, and right time.

A 2012 study by TeleVox and Kelton Research reinforces why this is so important now in the U.S.:

  • 83% of study participants say they don’t follow treatment plans exactly as prescribed.
  • 42% feel they would be more likely to do so if they were encouraged or coached between doctor visits.
  • Yet, 55% of providers say they don’t communicate with patients between visits and 50% of healthcare professionals believe their job begins and ends during regular office visits.

With the additional communication, patients are more likely to comply with treatment plans and share important details between visits. Increasing the shared data between providers can eliminate duplicative tests, check compliance and reduce costs.

As the Baby Boomer generations ages, more adult children are involved in their parent’s care. Often family members are tech-savvy, but live in distant locations. While HIPAA laws must be followed, sharing EMRs can often help increase compliance and help improve coordination among multiple caregivers.

This concept of a new active role for patients can’t be accomplished alone. Support begins at the board level. Physicians need to embrace it and hospital systems need to integrate tools to allow engagement to occur - whether it’s to simplify patient portals so they aren’t intimidating, continue to maintain patient interest and increase use of mobile apps.