Shifting Doctor-Patient Relationships with Patient Activation and Engagement

Five months into 2014, “Meaningful Use”, and the accompanying focus on patient activation and patient engagement are clearly at the forefront of the minds of medical practice administrators.

Patient activation is a tool to improve patient engagement and therefore, doctor-patient relationships. “Activated” patients have knowledge about health care and are able to and willing to manage their own health care needs. In return, this builds trust with doctors and allows for patients to become more involved in their own health care — patient engagement. Ultimately, it’s a pathway to a world in which patients are health literate and therefore involved in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And while publicly the effects of such health care reforms have been focused mainly on what it will do for patients, there is a whole other side to the story.

For medical professionals, putting a focus on patient activation and engagement opens up communication. Electronic healthcare records (EHR) allows for the implementation of new patient oriented technology, such as patient portal software. With patient portal software, patients have the ability to schedule appointments and check their health records whenever they’d like. It encourages one’s own medical literacy, while also opening up the possibility for direct message capabilities which may make it easier for patients to connect with a medical practice and ultimately grow collaborative trust and enable patients to become a part of their own health care.

At the core of patient activation and patient engagement is a transition from a fee-for-service health care model to one that is value-based.  A value-based health care system ensures focus is on visit quality and outcome. To encourage that adoption of value based practices and standards, the Center for Medicare Services has prescribed a formula that apportions a percentage of the reimbursement to be determined by qualitative assessment of the health care experience.

A portion of this standardized qualitative assessment is a survey instrument that asks patients specific questions regarding their visit and services or information that was provided to them.  Health care practices and hospitals choosing to ignore the mandate to inform patients about their conditions and treatment are essentially opting out of a significant percentage of the reimbursement pie that is available to them. The intent is that a value-based health care system, matched with health literate patients, will ultimately lead to fewer low-intensity patient visits due to higher quality results. In return this leads to two things: The first is a re-evaluation of the cost of a medical professional’s time, and the second is happy patients who are more likely to stick with and recommend their medical professional to their friends. Together this is a recipe for profit.

Now, let’s remember why medical professionals get into this industry to begin with. Being a doctor is about helping others. It’s a profession that is both taxing and incredibly fulfilling. Or at least it should be. When working in a health care system in which a patient’s health rests solely in a doctor’s hands, it’s no wonder that a 2012 national study from Archives of Internal Medicine showed that almost 50% of all medical professionals are showing symptoms of burnout which could cause very serious safety concerns for patients.

The efforts around “Meaningful Use” of EHR systems, and the focus on patient engagement is meant to make the health care system a lifelong collaboration between medical provider and patient. Through patient engagement and the implementation of new medical technology, patient’s will become active and informed participants in their own lives, and, with the help of a medical professional, live life to their healthiest potential. And when two people working towards a common good see results, it becomes much more satisfying and fulfilling for both individuals.

Patient engagement will undoubtedly perform a key role in the future of doctor patient relationships. And in order for patients to become engaged, it’s first necessary that they are health literate. At Polar Green, we’ve designed a prototype that will both increase health literacy and encourage patient-doctor communication, thereby enabling patient “activation” and establishing the seeds for true patient engagement. The Informacio Workstation incorporates clinical technology with modern design principles to create an unparalleled medical experience that will leave doctors and patients feeling like they’re in it together. To learn more about the Informacio Workstation, visit our Indiegogo campaign here: