How Patient-Centered Care Turns Patients Into Leaders

patient centered carePatient engagement is the cornerstone of effective patient-centered care teams. Engaged patients seek out information about their health, make educated decisions about their healthcare, proactively manage their health, and tend to experience better health outcomes. But how do patient-centered care teams motivate their patients to become active participants—leaders, even—of their health? There are several effective patient engagement strategies care teams can use to engage their patients and achieve better health outcomes for patients and entire patient populations.

Why Patient-Centered Care Teams Matter

Care teams provide patients with continuity in what often feels like a disjointed, fragmented industry by bringing many different facets of care under the same umbrella. Care teams also increase patient satisfaction—a key indicator of healthcare quality—by collaborating to create personalized care plans for each patient.

Each care team member—patient, physician, nurse, social worker, pharmacist, physical therapist, nurse practitioner/physician assistant, care manager, etc.—contributes unique expertise that, cumulatively, results in a continuum of care and personalized, collaborative, face-to-face patient experience. Care teams satisfy the patient desire to be “known” by their healthcare provider by fostering trusting patient-provider relationships that give patients the knowledge and confidence to proactively manage their conditions.

How To Turn Patients Into Care Team Leaders

Patient-centered care teams are a health system’s best avenue for engaging patients and, ultimately, improving care. By prioritizing data-driven decision making, effortless information sharing, and personalized care, care teams can do more than engage patients; they can empower them to be leaders of their care teams.

#1: Make Decisions Using Data

Data is the heart of effective patient-centered care teams:

  • Eliminates guesswork.
  • Motivates patients.
  • Saves time.
  • Increases transparency.
  • Defines expectations.

Using data to show patients the potential outcomes of each decision and make comparisons to patients with similar disease processes, care teams can shift their focus from getting patients to comply with treatment recommendations to educating, listening, and supporting patients. Healthcare is moving away from a paternalistic medical model—one in which providers tell patients what to do and expect them to comply, no question asked—toward a transparent, collaborative decision-making model fueled by data.

Care teams can use data to show patients where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going. A care team member might say to their diabetic patient, “based on data, if you continue with persistent high blood glucose levels the, foot ulcer you now have could lead to an amputation within X (specified) time frame.” Without data, care teams waste time negotiating and debating with patients. With data, care teams can focus on listening to their patients and empowering them to make educated decisions.

[See Also: Quality Data is Essential for Doctors Concerned with Patient Engagement]

#2: Make It Personal

Effective care teams rely on trusting, collaborative patient-provider relationships to engage and motivate patients. Although data should drive decision making, patients are more than just numbers. Standardized care and personalization should go hand-in-hand within a care team setting. Using evidence-based treatment recommendations, care teams should work with patients to create personalized care plans that are frequently discussed and revisited. Open, two-way communication is critical within care teams and leads to a safe environment in which patients feel comfortable asking questions and giving feedback.

[See Also: Standardized Care and Personalization: Can They Coexist?]

#3: Make It Easy To Share Information

If data is the foundation for all decision making, then care teams need to make it as effortless as possible for all care team members to share information. Make it easy for patients to give and receive information (health history, test results, diagnosis details, etc.) in real-time. Provide user-friendly portals, tools, and platforms that support communication in a variety of formats (text, email, etc.) based on patient preferences.

#4: Leverage New Technology…When Appropriate

Wearables. Home blood tests. Telehealth. Remote monitoring. It will take teamwork to stay on top of the fast-growing healthcare technology industry. The healthcare Internet of Things market is expected to hit $117 billion by 2020. In 2015, the adoption of wearables was up 60% and half of patients hospitalized starting using wearables after their hospital stay. Care teams need to leverage emerging technology to engage patients, keeping in mind that various patient segments think about and use technology differently. Wearables, like Fitbits, are a good example: while enthusiastically embraced by the younger demographic (a majority of wearables owners are under 35), older patients are slower to adopt.

Many industry experts say 2016 is the year of the healthcare consumer, with patient engagement taking center stage. Care teams that leverage good data and predictive analytics to make decisions, make it easy for care team members to share information, strike a balance between evidence-based medicine and personalized care, and integrate new technology when appropriate, will do more than engage patients; they will empower patients with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to take the lead.

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