When confronted with a health system that is expansive beyond comprehension, very complex and severely flawed it is no wonder patients are often passive observers. Providers and administrators often do not know how to navigate the environment themselves, let alone a patient who infrequently touches the system.
This is further complicated by the ever-changing world of health care practices. While adoption rates are often very slow in the clinical setting – taking on average 17 years between research findings and clinical adoption – the transition for consumers is never-ending, often leaving those administering care and those needing care on very different paths.
Despite this, we know that when a patient is involved in their own health, better outcomes are experienced. Provided with the right tools, we know that many patients will use those tools to their advantage. We also know that new Affordable Care Act and Meaningful Use policies target the creation of better engagement and satisfaction methods and metrics for patients.
With that model in mind, how does a provider get a patient to be “engaged” in their own care and stay on course with their prescribed care, all while being compliant in a new world of health reform and get reimbursed? Perhaps it is getting a patient to exercise regularly, take medications properly, or something interactive and different. While no one answer exists, there are steps that can be taken to improve engagement that lead to patients feeling informed enough to take positive action in their own care. Further, with a growing body of literature and new policies, reimbursements and standardization are beginning to coordinate.
When only 10% of consumers are estimated to be “very confident” in their own abilities to find high-quality care and 6% to “affect the cost of care,” it speaks volume about the distance US-based systems need to go to empower those we care for.
Outcomes are a reflection of the pathway that the patient takes, and it is necessary to understand that each person has a different level of understanding, set of resources and faith in their own knowledge. However, patients want to be involved; they want to help.
Providing basic information and ways to seek and find the answers patients need is paramount Virtual coaching, online nursing and secure plan management are also increasingly more important tools that can be employed immediately WITH patients.
Whether it is drug adherence, follow-up rehabilitation or making initial care decisions, improving individual perceptions, understanding and abilities is a key component of improving outcomes and creating a strong foundation of patient engagement.