Don’t Let Patient Engagement Be Your Hospital’s Global Warming

Don’t Let Patient Engagement Be Your Hospital’s Global Warming

Last month, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at the University of California at Irvine calculated that the glaciers' retreat may have already "reached the point of no return."  We can all look forward to continued extreme weather and higher tides thanks to our unwillingness to act in a timely matter.  

We see the same with many hospitals when it comes to the subject of Patient Engagement -- the executives know it’s important, but they are going to wait and see what happens.  The Axial - Becker’s National Patient Engagement Rankings looked at 3,000 hospitals and their approach to patient engagement, and the disparities between organizations are quite clear.

Let’s debunk some common myths about Patient Engagement:

Myth: It’s Next Year’s Problem

As our Top 100 names show, there are some pretty major systems that are taking Patient Engagement quite seriously.  Mayo Clinic and InterMountain Health hospitals take 20 of the top 100 slots, representing a system-wide commitment to involving patients in their own care.  And these institutions show no sign of slowing down.  If anything, the winners are doubling down on their investments, as they see the benefits of increased loyalty, better HCAHPS, and lower readmissions to their bottom line. And they know they have to meet the patients where they are between encounters.

Furthermore, as only 4 hospitals have achieved Meaningful Use Stage 2 certification to date, we know the challenges of getting patients to use a static “portal” as their method of engaging with the healthcare system -- it just doesn’t happen.  But we also know that people look at their mobile devices 150 times a day. It’s a combination of access and content that put the “meaningful” in Meaningful Use.


Myth: Patient Engagement Is an IT Initiative

One of the most common mistakes we see in the marketplace today is that Patient Engagement has been relegated to an IT project.  While it is true that you can’t meaningfully engage patients in their own care over time without information technology, it is false that Patient Engagement is a project.  Patient Engagement is the realization that the only people that can truly change the cost curve in this country are the patients, as 69% of all costs of healthcare have to do with the patient’s actions outside the care setting.

Without understanding the issues of patient education, communication, caregiver knowledge, medication management, and health tracking, the technology won’t move the needle in substantive ways -- no matter how strong it is.

Successful health systems have executives responsible for the full outcome of patients, not only in the hospital, but also at the patients’ home.  Active care management is the lynchpin of the new patient model.  The use of mobile technologies for health monitoring, growing at an exponential rate, with no signs of abating thanks to the seamless integration of Apple and Google of wireless devices, allows care managers to have a high-resolution picture of their patients, and suggest specific feedback.  Soon the days of a telephone representative from a third party company calling with a fixed script will hopefully, be gone forever, replaced by a consultative conversation between the patient and their case manager discussing real data and working on a patient-specific plan.


Myth: Patient Engagement is Expensive and an Additional Cost

Research studies are emerging, including those from the Mayo Clinic, that show reduced readmissions, more accurate discharge patterns, and higher patient satisfaction through the integrated, patient-centered care model.  Physician-led ACOs stand to be some of the biggest gainers in the new model of care. A 5% reduction in admissions, readmissions and ER visits can drive an additional $25M in shared savings for a patient-population of 100,000.

Finally, an integrated care model with the patient at the center allows healthcare institutions to move from sick-care through to wellness, offering both better satisfaction for the patient, the healthcare professionals, and additional revenue streams heretofore only available to the wellness industry.  Through the trust established during the healing process, the provider has a platform to recommend individual wellness solutions.

Of course, just as the global warming data indicates, about 50% of Americans believe we should do nothing.  Are you one of them, or are you embarking on patient-centered care outside of the hospital?