Patient engagement is increasingly recognized as a core ingredient to improved outcomes, with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement included it in their Triple Aim. What’s driving this?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) asserted the need for patient-centered healthcare in their 2001 seminal publication, Crossing the Quality Chasm. This represents a shift to an increased focus on patient preferences. The IOM’s call for system reform viewed patients as active participants in their care and experts in their own needs. With their call to action came a strong response in the form of a new subject matter termed “patient engagement.”
Health Affairs defines patient engagement as interventions designed to actively involve patients in their wellbeing and health. Over the past decade, research has demonstrated that engaged patients tend to have better health outcomes with lower overall costs. But, what specifically are the links?
1. Engagement Leads to Improved Adherence to Treatment Plans
Many engagement strategies seek to improve a patient’s adherence to their treatment regimes. Annually, non-adherence costs between $100 and $289 billion.3 A systematic review funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality investigated methods to improve compliance.4 This study found that patient education improved patient adherence and lead to lower out-of-pocket costs.
2. Engagement Results in Increased Patient Satisfaction
Patient satisfaction serves as an important component of pay-for-performance metrics. A review of 37 randomized controlled trials found that providing patients with targeted education materials led to greater satisfaction with care.5 Furthermore, a meta-analysis revealed that providing patients with computer-based learning tools led to positive gains in overall satisfaction scores.6
3. Engagement Reduces Health Service Utilization
Due to escalating costs and changing regulations, healthcare systems are seeking new ways to reduce hospital utilization. In the U.S., twenty percent of Medicare recipients return to the hospital following discharge costing an estimated $17.4 billion dollars per year. Interestingly, engaged patients are less likely to visit the emergency room,1 and 30% less likely to be readmitted to the hospital following discharge.2
It’s a buzzword for a reason; patient engagement strategies improve patient satisfaction and adherence to treatment plans while reducing hospital utilization and costs. Patients aren’t opposed to these new interventions either, they want to be involved. A recent survey found that patients want more education and greater access to individualized, reliable medical information.7 It’s time to answer the IOM’s call to reform the system and place patients at the center of their care.