It Matters: Helping Patients Engage in Their Own Care

There is a reason the February issue of Health Affairs magazine called the concept of patient activation and engagement the blockbuster drug of the 21st century. It is because it is true…and it matters for your health and your healthcare.

Backing up that claim are some astounding figures. Patients rated lowest in terms of their involvement with their care have, at least in the short and medium terms, substantially higher health costs, on average between 8% and 21% higher. These patients, deemed to be most lacking in the skills and confidence to be actively engaged in their own healthcare, are therefore at a higher risk of worse health outcomes and financial hardship due to their inflated costs.

Helping these patients, and others with better but still significantly poor engagement scores, to become more engaged in their health and health care is crucial to both improve outcomes and lower costs. But what is the best way to help these patients engage?

A recurring thread throughout the articles linked above is that the concepts of shared decision-making and patient decision aids are crucial ways to boost patient engagement. Involving a patient in their own health plan, and getting buy-in and approval on the course of treatment, naturally will boost engagement, and increase the likelihood the patient will follow that plan once they return home. This is where the power of face-to-face and eye-to-eye communication comes to bear. As we’ve talked about before, creating a relationship of trust and comfort where doctor and patient are having a conversation rather than an intimidating check-up is crucial to help that patient engage. By getting the patient to agree to follow a plan they understand and even helped create, the benefits listed above can be achieved: they will be healthier, and their costs will go down.

As smartphones and other mobile forms of technology become more prevalent in healthcare, patient decision aids will need to follow. It seems like everyone has a mobile device these days – and over 50% of those people use their mobile device to look up healthcare information. Meeting patients where they are is a great way to keep them engaged. Whether it’s a Smartphone  Physical-esque menagerie of healthcare apps, or checking in on the new FDA website to research clinical trials or get disease information, a more engaged person will likely be a healthier one.

What helps YOU engage in your own healthcare?

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