Noted author, commentator, and observer Nancy Finn (e-Patients Live Longer: The Complete Guide to Managing Health Care Using Technology) joined NaviNet’s Senior Director of Solutions Marketing, Meghan Oates-Zalesky, on Thursday, March 15, 2012, to discuss one of the most important challenges in healthcare today: patient engagement. The AHIP-sponsored webinar, “Care Collaboration and the Engaged Patient,” drew a wide audience of health plans, providers, nurse practitioners, care coordinators, and many others interested in this pivotal piece critical to the success of the accountable care delivery model puzzle.
We are in a transition period, moving from a fragmented healthcare system to a more collaborative model focused on the patient at the center of care. Within the framework of care collaboration, three critical components determine successful patient engagement: accountability, communication, and transfer and information exchange. Digital communication technology is an essential enabling component of the model.
The Moments of Care at the Center of Collaborative Care
The physician is the patient’s most trusted advisor; hence, the critical importance of the moments of care—when the patient and provider are face-to-face in the exam room, as well as when the provider is reaching out to patients with information. This new patient-centered integrated care model focuses on the whole patient during the moments of care, including respect for the patient’s values, preferences, and needs; involvement of family and friends; and continuity of care, including care site transitions.
The centerpiece of this model is shared decision-making, with the patient and the entire care team. The engaged patient is an empowered patient. When informed patients engage in the process, the result is better outcomes—adherence to medication and other treatment protocols, for example. The level of engagement depends on the quality of good communication between providers and patients, which leads to better and safer care and helps to address cost of care issues. Several patient-centered medical home (PCMH) pilot results support this view. Some examples include Group Health Cooperative, Seattle; Geisinger Health System; and the Mayo Clinic.
The Empowered Patient Has an Advocate
Every patient should have a patient advocate. This is a voice on the care team. Potential advocates can be family, friends, or social workers. Patients should have a signed legal document appointing an advocate. If that is not possible, a member of the care team should appoint an appropriate professional to assume that role.
Technology Enables Real-Time Information-Sharing and Communication
Personal health records—whether in digital form (preferably) or simply on paper—will continue to grow in importance. We’ve heard from care coordinators what a great tool electronic health records (EHRs) are from the provider office perspective, and there are financial benefits to the provider using them, thanks to reform. They enable a healthcare professional to be in a system that can be easily updated. All of the providers involved in a patient’s care can see what’s going on in real time. Social networks will play an increasing role in fostering an interactive meaningful dialogue for patients and providers. One site that links many sources of information is CareZone, which enables caregivers, family members, and others involved in patient care to share updates and information, store and archive documents, and manage communications about the patient.
Acknowledging that unfiltered and incorrect health-related information is on the Internet, the best websites for authoritative health and chronic care information include www.medlineplus.com and www.healthfinder.gov. Patients also should consult sites sponsored by well-respected health institutions like the Mayo Clinic and sites sponsored by health societies, such as cancer.org, americandiabetesassociation.org, and nhlbI.com. Many insurance plans have comprehensive sites that include information on disease management, cost of care, and community services available to patients. They are excellent sources of patient care intelligence and most are backed by credible clinical experts.
mHealth and Apps: Self-Service
mHealth and smart phone apps will continue to change the way we look at testing, imaging, monitoring, and information-gathering. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued draft guidelines about how it might regulate medical apps. According to MobiHealthNews, consumer health apps for the iOS platform likely will exceed 13,000 by summer 2012, while 6,000 professional medical apps should be available by then.
The evolution of the patient portal will be one of the most important developments supporting the collaborative care model. With a user name and password, a patient can access many different elements of wellness and disease management, such as lab results, prescription refills, and upcoming appointments. Importantly, patients can proactively communicate with their healthcare providers. The convergence of patient portals, personal health records, bidirectional insurance plan data, and EHRs will accelerate as enabling technologies bridge integration hurdles.
We thank Nancy Finn for sharing her strategy on how to become an engaged and empowered patient. See the webinar. Visit Nancy on her blog at www.healthcarebasics.blogspot.com and on Twitter at @nfinn8421. What do you think is critical to engaging patients? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Senior Director, Corporate Marketing