We Must Enable Patients to Become Better Stewards of Their Own Care

Conventional wisdom says that people perform better if they have a vested interest in the outcome of a given situation. From experience, employers know this to be true: Employees who are given an ownership stake in their company historically perform better, and enjoy a higher degree of satisfaction from their respective jobs than do their non-stake-holding counterparts.

Recent research has shown that a similar premise holds true in healthcare as well. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which has expanded its focus on patient engagement each year states, “Patients want to be engaged in their healthcare decision-making process, and those who are engaged as decision-makers in their care tend to be healthier and have better outcomes.” The most commonly cited technologies hospitals plan to add involve patient-generated health data solutions (2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey). Generally speaking, the greater the engagement of the patient, the better the results, and information technology (IT) can support improved engagement platforms, such as patient portals, secure messaging, social media and other technologies.Graph

Data underscores importance of patient engagement
According to a 2016 New England Journal of Medicine survey of 340 U.S. healthcare executives, clinician leaders and clinicians at organizations directly involved in healthcare delivery:

  • 42% of respondents indicated that less than a quarter of their patients were highly engaged.
  • More than 70% reported having less than half of their patients highly engaged.
  • And to underscore the importance of this result, 47% of those surveyed revealed that low patient engagement was the biggest challenge they faced in improving patient health outcomes.

In addition, a 2017 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report recommends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “should assess the effectiveness of its efforts to enhance patient access to and use of electronic health information.”

This is not only true for hospitals, but also for specialty care practices, such as orthopaedists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, gastroenterologists and other high-performance specialists. In these environments, it is imperative that practices understand the very specific needs of their patients, and how to best conduct outreach that will increase patient portal access and engagement.

How has your practice encouraged more patient engagement?