Over the past few years, there has been considerable buzz about patient engagement. In fact, there is now almost universal agreement that involving and empowering patients to take control of their healthcare is desirable. However, healthcare organizations and providers differ on the definition of patient engagement and on the degree to which it can happen. We have identified 3 factors in the transformation of patient engagement.
1) The healthcare extender (HCE). HCEs (people such as nurses, patient educators, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants) are critical for helping to reduce overall healthcare costs and to improve patient outcomes. Models such as the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) bring focus on a 2-pronged approach of utilizing HCEs to save money and lives. Through this model, HCEs help patients understand medical information and then follow up with patients to reduce hospital readmissions. Another area where HCEs are filling gaps is in primary care. With thousands of people entering the healthcare system as a result of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA (which we will address later), the pressure is on to provide effective primary care. This is where nurse practitioners and physician assistants can have a positive impact on relieving pressure on the healthcare system as a whole (and on lowering costs).
2) Technology. As advancements in medical technology continue at a rapid pace, many hospitals and healthcare organizations are thinking through the challenges of building infrastructures to support patient engagement. Mobile health (mHealth)—using mobile technology (through smart phones, for example) to support actions related to health—has been gaining traction as a way to better engage with patients. In addition, electronic health records (EHRs) have the potential to give healthcare providers (HCPs) quicker access to patient records, while also helping HCPs save time and deliver more efficient patient care.
3) ACA. The ACA has impacted all aspects of healthcare and is also playing a major role in the 2 factors mentioned above. Healthcare reform poses many questions for providers. For example, how can patients engage more meaningfully? And how do we make engagement more of a 2-way dialogue? Many of the implementation steps include the idea of making patient-provider interactions more meaningful, cost-effective, and most importantly, measurable.
Learn more about this topic at DTC National! An expert panel will lead a discussion on Thursday, April 24 at 9:45 AM. Stop by to learn how transformation in health information technology and changes driven by the ACA have helped shape the meaning of patient engagement.