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To get better care for patients and lower costs, it's important to stitch together the experience of patients both while they're in the hospital and immediately afterwards.
Patient engagement enhances patient satisfaction, helps doctors coordinate care and creates an effective bond between patients and their doctors, said Raj Toleti, chief technology officer and president of Coordinate Care Solutions for PatientPoint, a patient-physician engagement solutions company.
"When a patient is educated and empowered, they feel more in control of their healthcare situation. When a physician follows up with them, they better understand what the patient just went through," he said. "Such coordination closes the gap in care."
Engaging patients leads to better care, and, according to Toleti, a downstream reduction in costs. Toleti outlines four ways patient engagement, with assistance from physicians, can lead to reduced costs in healthcare.
1. Medication management
Adherence to medication is a significant problem. Properly managing medication can both reduce hospital readmission rates and promote better outcomes in patients’ lives. "Non-compliance to prescription renewals and refills makes up a large portion of ED visits," Toleti said. "It's a tough problem to crack. Traditionally, medication management is driven through the pharmacy. The physicians themselves aren't engaged in it." According to Toleti, outreach directly from a physician reminds patients of why they need to be taking the meds they're on. Medication reconciliation is the second piece to overall management. It helps eliminate adverse reactions and provides cross-provider medication history.
2. Automated preventive screenings
In the United States, 5 percent of patients with co-morbidities are undiagnosed with depression. "If you take a look at the preventive task force guidelines from CMS, it says, for example, that if a patient is diabetic with renal disease they're susceptible to depression," said Toleti. Systems exist now that can automatically recognize data like this and remind/encourage physicians that they should screen their patients not just for what they already are diagnosed with, but for other conditions that may not be prevalent on the surface. "Capturing something like depression, ADHD, breast cancer, etc. before it becomes a bigger problem will likely result in higher (Medicare Risk Adjustment) ratings and (Risk Adjustment Factor) scores," Toleti said.
3. Best-of-class educational content for the patient from the physician
By engaging the patient with relevant and effective educational content at check-in, in the waiting and exam rooms and/or post-care, the patient is more aware of their disease state and therefore better engaged in care. "Something like an electronic newsletter that goes out to the patient post-discharge on behalf of the physician? That level of visibility to the patient drives a more effective conversation with physicians and insurance carriers," said Toleti. "That continuous patient engagement pre-, during and post-care is where we get the best bang for the buck in regards to admin costs and with healthcare in general."
4. Clinical research
It's getting more difficult to recruit and engage patients for clinical trials, Toleti said, and as a result, 80 percent of clinical trials are behind schedule. Using a system that can identify patients in real time as they're checking-in to see if they fit all the requirements for a trial can help bring this number down. So can advertising. "Promoting clinical trials on waiting room screens to educate the end-user and bring awareness? It's tremendously effective. A patient sees a message immediately before seeing their physician which drives a conversation in that moment and time," said Toleti. The translation: new therapies move to market faster and cheaper, meaning better clinical outcomes in the community reducing overall cost.