Patient Engagement: the Blockbuster Drug of the 21st Century

Now is the time for 21st century healthcare providers to adopt mobile health technologies. By utilizing mobile technology to educate and engage patients, healthcare providers can improve patient outcomes while simultaneously combatting the rising cost of healthcare delivery. As healthcare consultant Leonard Kish recently said, the results we have thus far are nothing short of astounding. If patient engagement were a drug, it would be the blockbuster drug of the century and malpractice not to use it.”

Online access to medical information is redefining the roles of physician and patient. In the past year, 80% of Internet users and 52% of smartphone owners have gone online to look up health information (Fox, 2013). The Internet puts medical information, accurate or not, “in the hands of non-experts, both empowering and endangering today’s connected patient” (Buck, 2012).

This is especially relevant as the Affordable Care Act and Meaningful Use requirements are shifting healthcare’s reimbursement model from one predicated on the “do more, bill more” premise, which results in unnecessary and duplicate tests and procedures, to one based on value and positive health outcomes. Improving individual outcomes, already a difficult endeavor, becomes that much more difficult when patients are acting on incorrect information.

The best way to ensure the accuracy of online medical information is to have control over it. The role of healthcare providers must evolve to meet the needs of the 21st century patient. In addition to providing traditional in-office care, providers must also provide care in the digital space. Accurate, accessible health information is especially important for treating chronically ill patients, because the decisions that most affect their health are the ones they make everyday outside of the supervision of a physician.

But exactly how much impact can patient engagement have on cost and outcome? The VA recently conducted a study on their Coordinated Care and HomeTelehealth program. The program uses communication technology that allows clinicians to provide care from a distance, with the goal of reducing hospitalizations and improving outcomes.

The study compared HomeTelehealth program participants against a control group. What they found was remarkable; the HomeTelehealth patients experienced 19.74% fewer hospitalizations, and the cost of primary care and nursing home care was reduced $11,521 and $76,145, respectively. Leonard Kish sums up the study: “Can you imagine if a drug reduced the need to go to the hospital by this amount? It would be malpractice not to use it.

In this new era of outcome-based healthcare, providers must provide accurate and accessible medical information. U.S. consumers are hungry for reputable online health information. Unfortunately, many of them are making decisions based on dated, incorrect, or flat out dangerous medical advice. That’s where providers come in: by increasing patient engagement, clinicians can simultaneously lower costs and improve outcomes. Put simply, the time has come for healthcare systems to adopt technologies that meaningfully engage patients and improve healthcare outcomes.