The New Secret Sauce: Patient Engagement

The heat is on in the health care world, especially as it relates to re-hospitalization rates and patient outcomes. Health care systems, physicians, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, senior living communities – everyone is trying to figure out how we can improve outcomes.

chainlinkBut what about the people themselves? How do we get people to be engaged in their own care? It seems like that is the growing question. According to Julie O’Brien, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of AliCare Medical Management in an article cited in DorlandHealth, there are many barriers to what is commonly called patient engagement.

As the DorlandHealth article explains, ‘Unfortunately, patients usually don’t change their behavior when it comes to their health until something catastrophic happens – such as a heart attack. O’Brien says intervention after a major health event is the most effective time to change an individual’s behaviors and habits. But even more effective than that, she says, is prevention, whether it’s preventing disease altogether, or preventing an unnecessary hospitalization or readmission.’

So how do we get people engaged in prevention? That is the secret sauce and the one that everyone is seeking. O’Brien shares some new research that shows the benefits of emails and text messaging in supporting patient self-monitoring. She added though that when the texting and emailing ended so did the patient success with self-monitoring. Other recent research highlights the benefits of coaching.

At Lifesprk, we incorporate reminder systems, coaching, education, and proactive guidance into our model. However, the first step is always to meet the client where he or she is, and to discover what is most important to him or her. We’ve found that when we start by focusing on the client’s goals, amazing results can follow.

As providers and professionals seeking to improve our clients’ outcomes, we need to be looking for solutions that value patient engagement and provide long-term options for continued guidance.

What role does patient engagement strategies play in your own practice? What role does it play in choosing resources for your clients? And what role should it play?

As O’Brien states, if we want to change people’s behavior and outcomes, we need to look at prevention and the guidance we provide to support that.