5 Benefits of Increased Patient Engagement You May Not Know

Hayes_TwitterBy Susan Cruz, Hayes Management Consulting
Twitter: @HayesManagement

In today’s disruptive healthcare environment, we’re hearing of all sorts of new initiatives that aim to provide the best and most affordable healthcare to patients. Everything from MACRA, to Meaningful Use, to interoperability. A common theme among these is the active foundation of improving health and realizing increased patient engagement. With the shift from fee-for-service to fee-for-value, patients and consumers are becoming less passive and more proactive and engaged. With this idea on the tip of everyone’s tongue, one might ask questions like, how do I create the best environment for my providers and their patients? What is the best way to educate patients on what exactly is going into their healthcare? How do I increase my patient engagement?

Not unlike using the age-old sentiment that history repeats itself, you can begin to answer these questions by going back to examples of how people have been engaged in their education in the past. When you talk about education, you intuitively think of school. Active learning is a methodology utilized in the classroom to move the students from the role of passive receivers of information to that of active participants responsible for their own learning. Techniques used in active learning include discussion, self-assessment, projects, group learning, self-defined goals, and more. These techniques have proven to be far more effective than the traditional learning environment in which students sit passively and listen to lectures from a seemingly autocratic authority.

Similarly, the provider-patient role in many healthcare institutions has evolved throughout history into an authority and passive recipient relationship. But as we noted earlier, this is clearly starting to shift within the healthcare industry today. With the implementations of value-based care, we are seeing the provider-patient relationship shifting to organically place more ownership of the patients’ own health onto their plates to become more like the traditional consumer of any good or service, and less like a passive student within a lecture-style environment.

While the healthcare industry is abuzz with all sorts of opinions about these initiatives and the shift value-based care, one perspective you can take is to see the win-win benefits of such an evolution of healthcare, especially for providers.

Here are five benefits that you may not have realized since the industry has started to steer patients into becoming active learning healthcare consumers.

  1. Increased knowledge and real understanding among patients
    In the same manner that active learning increases learning in the classroom, it achieves the same result in the healthcare setting. Patients who have actively engaged in their own health, well-being, and healthcare choices will become mini-experts in their own conditions and better understand the impact of their decisions and those outcomes. The overall result is not only do patients have a more complete picture of their health, but also an in-depth understanding of the options and services available to them. Patients are more likely to only not only accept, but help create, treatment plans they know contain achievable goals. And as I’m sure you were taught in school, plans with achievable goals are exponentially more likely to succeed than their counterparts.
  2. Increased patient ownership and responsibility
    When patients begin to see their own health as their own responsibility, as students do with their grades, they are more likely to see providers as teachers rather than omniscient prophets. While providers can offer various paths, options, and solutions, it is ultimately the patient’s choice as to what care they receive but hopefully with more of a team-oriented perspective rather than a passive acceptance of their care. When providers and patients work together, it fosters an environment that allows the patient to provide better anecdotal evidence to conversations, when needed, understand the need for testing and, often, be more understanding when first attempts do not resolve the problem. This, in turn, may decrease unfortunate lawsuits or other problems as patients understand that what might look like a mistake in hindsight was actually the best decision that could be made given the facts in evidence at the time and a decision that they agreed with at the time.
  3. Transformation of the office visit dynamic
    If active learning is utilized in daily practice, it will change the entire dynamic of the office visit process. Now that the patient is engaged in their own health and the care they receive, an option to optimize office visits is providing the patient with provider-approved information prior to office visits and then focusing the visit on information clarification or next steps within the solution roadmap. Providers will spend more time on assessing patient understanding via real conversation than on actual teaching (or worst yet, no teaching) and patients will be healthier in the end. This collaboration could lead to both increased productivity and better outcomes but it might also lead to a more rewarding work experience for the provider as well.
  4. Boosted teamwork and collaboration
    Evidence, without fail, proves that collaboration and teamwork increase better outcomes. No one person can have all the knowledge, all the resources, and all the ability to solve every problem. By collaborating with patients and engaging them in the decision making process, providers can reach better decisions regarding a patient’s health. Collaboration includes reaching consensus and without patient agreement that the treatment plan is the best one possible, the solution is inevitably moot. Common examples of this might be seen as patients not consistently taking prescribed medication, avoiding needed testing or, even, negative outcomes in surgery because the patient is mentally unwilling to participate in the necessary preparation.
  5. Better outcomes
    All of the previous points lead to the same conclusion: just like students who actively engage in their school education have better grades than passive students, patients who are actively engaged in their own healthcare will have better, more satisfying outcomes. After all, as we’re learning from all these new mandates and industry initiatives, a healthier patient means a more successful provider. A win/win situation.

This article was originally published on Hayes Management Consulting and is republished here with permission.