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Part 2 – Three Steps for Healthcare Providers to Improve Care by Empowering Patients

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If you lead a healthcare provider organization, you have an impossible task.  You control a mere fraction of what drives your performance. Only 10-15% of health and wellness is thanks to formal health services. The rest is mostly lifestyle plus some genetics.

Chronic disease patients probably account for the bulk of your business. While aging populations and increasing rates of chronic disease could be a boon for your billing, most payers are migrating to value-based models that will pay for performance rather than volume.

The foundations on which your business is built are shifting. Health systems are also moving from care in siloes to care that is integrated and from reactive treatment to proactive prevention, in addition to a relentless focus on value for money.

Your organization might already have an electronic health record and you might be giving patients access to a view of their health data. You might even be letting patient’s book appointments online. These technologies add convenience, but little evidence shows that they improve care.

A decade ago many of your patients started educating themselves with Google. Now they have wearable health devices and reams of activity and sleep data. Today you’re probably wondering how to incorporate that that real-world data into practice.

So what should you do next? You should empower your patients to achieve healthier lifestyles and better medication adherence. But wearable devices and apps alone won’t get you there.

Here are three steps for doing it. Let’s call them, Education or “What did the doctor say?”, Collaboration or “What’s next?”, and Motivation or “Keep it up!”.

Education or “What did the doctor say?”

Unfortunately, your fellow healthcare professionals are generally poor teachers. They’ve invested lifetimes to learn a ton about disease and diagnosis, but usually less about people and psychology. And they’re really busy, with little time to cater to each patient’s unique learning abilities.

Most of your patients aren’t great learners either. They are usually stressed at clinician visits. They don’t ask questions because they can tell their clinician is busy. And they forget most of what clinicians tell them anyway.

The Patient Visit Record is step one in empowering patients. Clinicians can become great teachers by using preloaded and peer reviewed infographic content and recording the conversation. Patients become great learners by being able to replay the teaching session anytime, anywhere.

Collaboration or “What’s next?”

Your patients with chronic conditions have a lot to manage. Getting all of the professionals and family who support them to work as a team can be difficult under one roof, let alone across facilities.

To make matters worse, patients often get conflicting advice from different healthcare professionals.  One specialist’s advice can easily differ from another if they don’t have access to the same care plans. This can confuse patients at best, or threaten their safety at worst.

Patients-friendly care plans are step two in empowering patients. They are a lay-language description of what’s being treated, what’s next, and what to do when expected symptoms happen. They ensure the whole team supporting a patient are using the same roadmap.

Motivation or “Keep it up!”

Healthier lifestyles and better medication adherence are essential for managing chronic conditions.  But patients aren’t likely to achieve these sometimes difficult behaviour changes without regular monitoring and support beyond infrequent reminders at the point of care.

Personal health coaching is step three in empowering patients. Patients track their biometrics and daily lifestyle behaviors like exercise, food, and how they feel. Clinicians can easily monitor a patient population and easily see who needs support and securely message or send content or schedule a phone call.

What’s the value?

Empowered patients who are supported to achieve healthier lifestyles and better medication adherence will drive higher quality care and efficiency across your services.

If you’re paid through some form of capitated model, empowered patients will need less of your time. If you still work with a transactional model, patients will likely be seeing you for higher value services. Either way, you’ll be able to deliver better care more efficiently.

No matter how good your point of care service is, empowered patients are essential for quality care because their outcomes are overwhelmingly driven by what they do outside of your office. Without empowering patients, providers surrender their biggest performance driver to chance.

Note: This is the second blog in our four part series on the value of empowering patients.