With the shortage of doctors, people developing chronic conditions that need regular attention, soaring healthcare costs and complex insurance coverage plans, getting patients more involved and active with their own healthcare, otherwise known as patient engagement, is being adopted to lower healthcare costs and produce better outcomes.
The health industry – hospitals, doctors and public health officials – are encouraging patients to keep track of their medical information, go big on preventive care and stay on top of chronic conditions. By rolling patient engagement strategies, they predict a rise on healthier patients that are more in control and aware of their conditions. And to bridge the awareness gap, technology is going to help.
The Engaged vs. Unengaged Patient
A review on 31 national surveys suggests that American patients are still far from taking an active role in their healthcare. According to the Center for Advancing Health:
- 50% of Medicare patients don’t bring a list of questions to their doctor appointments (unprepared).
- 60% of adults don’t tell health professionals if they have any allergies unless asked (not proactive).
- 30% of adults have never compared a medication they received from a pharmacist vs. the orders from their doctors (not cautious).
- 61% of Americans don’t even maintain their own medical records, whether in paper or electronic (passive).
These are serious situations that can lead to drastic mistakes and accidents that happen due to oversight or carelessness. A simple wrong dosage of medicine can be fatal! Studies reveal that when patients and their families are more engaged with their healthcare, these mistakes can be prevented.
According to the National Patient Safety Foundation, a vast majority of Americans “remain relatively uninformed and passive recipients of healthcare services and thus lack the confidence and skills needed to fully engage in their health care.”
Bridging the Gap: Making Patients Engaged Through Technology
A 2012 report by the Institute of Medicine noted that patient engagement is the key to an effective healthcare system.
1. Let people have easy access to their medical records.
Technology can help patients become engaged by letting them access their medical records easily online. By allowing them to become familiar with their own records, you give them a chance to better understand their own condition and be informed. This leads to more productive consultations with their doctors. They can also easily check and be reminded of any change in data that they need to remember, like maintenance medicines, routine laboratory tests or doctor appointments.
2. Personalize their care.
A big part of patient engagement that goes beyond giving them access to their medical records is giving them specially tailored information and more importantly, tools that will help them stay on top of their own healthcare.
There are a lot of fitness and health apps or web sites that can help patients keep track of their everyday medical conditions. For patients that have chronic conditions that require maintenance and monitoring, a chart or app that will help them plot their daily results (e.g: blood pressure, blood glucose, etc) will help them see trends so they can notify and help their doctors help them. They can also see patterns that make it easier to identify conditions that worsen their conditions so they are given the knowledge to avoid them.
3. Educate patients on how to use technology that is available for them.
All these great things that technology does for overall improvement of healthcare delivery is nothing without proactive teaching from healthcare professionals. Informing them that they can (and should) look at their medical records isn’t enough. Let them know where to access that information and how to use them.
Technology even helps disseminating information and makes education easier. There are brochures and educational programs that are developed that make learning more fun. Managing diabetes or how to prevent another heart attack are just a few examples on topics that can be covered.
Patients Become Partners in their Own Healthcare
The end goal of patient engagement is a partnership. Patients become partners in managing their own healthcare! By transforming them into partners, the healthcare industry has won half of the battle towards health and disease management. Health promotion and prevention takes center stage and we might even see a decrease on patients getting sick in the next few years.
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