Is Successful Patient Engagement a Possibility or a Dream?

Posted by Courtney Larned

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Jan 6, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Today we see and hear a lot of focus on the healthcare industry, and emphasis placed on quality healthcare availability for everyone. One major point that is stressed is increasing patient engagement to improve healthcare. There isn't a doubt in my mind that engaged patients (and care teams) can completely shift healthcare. After all, it's been said time and time again that the patient is the most under-utilized resource in healthcare.

patient engagement care team

Thinking back on your own experiences, have you ever been at the doctor's office, wearing that exam gown gapped open in the back, and staring at that file folder the nurse left on the desk, fighting off urges to jump off the table and peek inside to see what exactly was written about you before the doctor came in to see you?

I certainly have, and know that I am not alone. It's part of our natural curiosity about our health, our illness, and what is actually going on. As healthcare advances in technology and more and more providers are adopting electronic medical records, patients are given more access to some parts of their medical records, electronically. While it makes it easier to become a more active participant in care, it's a snapshot of just that one provider or health system's records on you, and not a comprehensive snapshot of your health.

Patient Engagement Score: +5

A recently published article from Health IT Tech Target featured some great points on how "Each year a growing number of patients start using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets."

The point of this story was to address the topic of patient engagement to analyze if this technology was helping the process. More on the capabilities that are available later, but for now let's look at more highlights from this article. "Engagement is obviously a spectrum. From the perspective of a healthcare professional, the goals are to improve patient communication, increase patient education about their condition so they can make informed decisions about self-management and treatment, and ensure that patients are adhering to their treatment plans." This makes it appear that it is a step in the right direction.

engaged patients

Patient Engagement Score: +7

On another point, let's look at a question re-published by HIT Consultant that asked, "Is patient engagement just a monologue instead of a dialog?" Now that's an interesting point, given that many people sort of "clam up" in the doctor's office, afraid to speak or ask questions and sometimes develop the "white coat" syndrome, or the proverbial "door knob question." I've, far too often, had a list of questions to ask to only be sidetracked. I am not the only one. From the article, the answer to the question describing the real meaning of patient engagement - "A definition that actually allows two sides of the equation to talk openly, define what value means to both, and to set expectations up front to enter into a true partnership. A partnership in which both parties work together over the course of a consumer’s lifetime to achieve lasting healthcare with minimum interventions as a 'patient' is valued." That seems pretty straight-forward.

Patient Engagement Score: +5

Now it is time to look at some of the capabilities that become possible with new technologies and solutions designed for patient engagement. For just a sampling, consider the ability to jot down notes to remember pre-appointment questions, and care plan instructions, manage your list of important contacts to be easily shared in the case of an emergency, document allergies, severity, symptoms, and the medications required for treatment, share it with a click of a button and fax your most recent relevant data to your care team and providers.

And what if you could accurately manage prescriptions and dosages, and keep providers up-to-date with simple sharing, collaborate around appointments, linking tasks, notes, and important visit information, create tasks to keep your health goals on track, and designate pre and post-visit tasks help you get the most out of your appointments? Does new technology contribute to successful patient engagement? Sure looks that way.

Patient Engagement Score: +100

So, I think that true, successful patient engagement, while perhaps not the default today, is exponentially more than a dream, and even more than a possibility. I think that, as health reform begins to affect our care and our wallets, it quickly becomes a necessity to take a larger share of the responsibility and become a more engaged, empowered participant in our care.

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*** Worth noting...I completely made up the patient engagement score. It carries no real weight anywhere outside of this post.

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