Patient wearing mask watching education video on tablet with nurse
Health04 January, 2022

Patients as partners is the goal. Here’s how to get there

For healthcare organizations looking to provide more patient-centered care, it helps to see what others have been able to achieve by advancing their efforts to support, engage, activate, coach, and ultimately partner with patients.

Our Patient Partnership Maturity Model helps organizations identify where they are on the path to partnering with patients, and their strategy and technology needs for enabling more consistent and authentic relationships with patients. From supporting to partnering with patients, each step in the model is essential and providers and patients reap many benefits.

1. Baseline educational support doesn’t have to be basic.

Support transactions with patients occur at specific moments in the care journey, primarily through the distribution of educational materials during visits but also during inbound calls and/or patient portal messages. While this is the baseline for accreditation and regulatory requirements, health systems who go beyond the basics often see improvements in service delivery and patient satisfaction. For example, a 2019 analysis of nearly 274,000 patient portal messages from a California-based health system found that frequent users of the portal had fewer preventable hospital visits than patients who didn’t use the portal. More than 90% of users also said the experience was convenient and helped them be better informed.

2. For specific services, engaging patients helps them fare and feel better.

With digital touch points and multimodal (text messages, calls, etc.) outreach, patients receive trustworthy information and evidence-based answers to their questions before, during, and after specific procedures. To do this, health systems segment patient populations and offer resources based on conditions and objectives. For example, a 2020 study of pre- and postoperative educational programs for patients at an Illinois-based surgery clinic found that those receiving education before and after their procedure were 20% more likely to express confidence in their ability to manage their pain, compared to those who received education either before or after. Those better prepared to manage their pain used roughly nine fewer opioid pills over the source of their recovery.

3. Beneficial condition management requires active patients.

Most healthcare happens outside the clinical setting, and providers who recognize that provide a personalized approach to care processes like condition management, medication adherence, or remote patient monitoring through targeted digital and in-person interventions. A 2020 literature review encompassing 21 randomized control trials with more than 4,100 participants found that providing patients with targeted notifications to a smartphone or tablet led to increased medication and care plan adherence, as well as higher levels of patient satisfaction.

4. Coaching helps patients keep their health and wellness on track.

In the longitudinal care model, teams leverage predictive analytics, care management platforms, and other types of technology to enable more continuous outreach and support, including addressing specific social determinants of health. Educational content and modalities are highly personalized, standardized, and evaluated during frequent system-wide audits. For example, a 2017 study of enrollees in a Michigan health plan found that members who participated in chronic care management alone experienced 18% more ED visits and 98% more hospital admissions than members who participated in chronic care management coupled with a coaching program that provides specific milestones tied to care utilization, medication adherence, and overall clinical outcomes.

5. Switching to partnerships for agile planning and long-term benefits.

Patients are valued partners on their care teams, and both patients and clinicians are incentivized to work together over the long term with trusted digital touchpoints that leverage machine learning for ongoing interactions and automatic monitoring and updates to the system, such as patient preferences or insurance coverage. Patient partnership models are founded on digital strategies planned with clinical leaders and teams for buy-in, and with impact in mind, so administrators can show results and also quickly adapt to changing payment incentives or reimbursement models.

But what does it mean for patients to become partners in care? A 2015 qualitative study of patients with chronic conditions found that those who view themselves as partners in their care interact with their teams in one of three ways:

  1. To gain scientific and medical knowledge about their condition
  2. To assess the appropriateness of the interventions recommended to them
  3. To adapt to circumstances that may not be meeting their needs

This level of partnership enables a clearer focus on achieving optimal health outcomes, researchers concluded.

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