As it goes, patients are often overwhelmed with the medical verbiage thrown their way. The doctor explains, asks if the patient has any questions, a shake of the head ensues, they take their prescription and then leave. How much of that did they actually understand? Will this affect their health?
The patient needs to be at the center of it all. This includes understanding their conditions, not being afraid to ask relevant questions, and ultimately taking charge of their health. How does this happen? Physicians should engage patients through regular follow-ups and continued education, develop useful tools and goals, and establish a way for them to direct their care.
Although this model seeks to do just that, the patient at the center of it all and work towards care coordination, it can sometimes have a downfall. This model requires a lot of effort from the patient, and can sometimes lack the appropriate support from their doctors. What’s more, the effort required is only heightened for patients with chronic conditions.
So what can one do? Getting to know your patients and their available resources is key. Going beyond the office visit and ensuring they have the tools to stay on track of their health will be a big factor in their outcome. With this knowledge, you can recommend apps or services to help them stay healthy and develop appropriate services for your patients, such as Chronic Care Management or Annual Wellness Visits.
Should patients involve family, use wearables, consult their files, or communicate with specialists themselves? What should they have access to and how? Without the proper tools and resources, it can be difficult for a patient to understand where they stand, even in models such as “Patient-Centered Care.” Engagement is the key to a good model made for and with the patient.
Patient engagement, other than the obvious engagement of a patient in their health status, means so much more. It means having the tools to make a difference in their health, to be an active participant in their own care, to track their goals, to understand their health issues, to develop a better experience of care and improve the outcome of their care, all while knowing they are not alone. It means a network of care that includes not only them but their doctor, specialists, their family, and their friends.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released their Person and Family Engagement Strategy as a means to deliver better health outcomes, all the while cutting costs.
“Consideration of the health, values, and goals of the individual in consultation with the entire health care team leads to an improved experience and better care. When people feel responsible for their own health and are partners with their providers in goal-setting and decision-making, they are much more likely to achieve their health care goals.” -Kate Goodrich, MD MHS, Director, Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, CMS
Patient engagement even goes beyond the actual patient. Putting the patient at the center without the appropriate resources and support group won’t help them in the long run. As CMS puts it “person and family engagement is an essential part of a health care system that delivers high-quality care, spends dollars more wisely, and improves the health of people in their communities.”
Engaging everyone involved in a patient’s health, whether it be in the hospital, clinic or at home, enables better care coordination, promotes patient education and improves health outcomes.