Activated Patients: Better Results, Lower Costs
Patients who are active participants in the management of their own health have better outcomes and lower healthcare costs, according to new research.
A study conducted at Minnesota’s Fairview Health Services led by Judith Hibbard, a professor at the University of Oregon, stated that discovered that patients with a lower level of ‘activation’ – individuals who lacked the confidence and skills to actively engage in their own healthcare – accrued health costs that were 8-21% more than those with a higher level of engagement.
Hibbard and her team discovered that when comparing patients with chronic illnesses, those who were more ‘activated’ had lower health costs than those who were not. Patient responses through a patient activation questionnaire were able to predict their overall care costs even when adjusted by the harshness of their condition, age, sex and income. It was recommended that health delivery systems can reduce costs and improve patients’ outcomes by assessing these patient activation scores.
Dominic Frosch, another author of this research and a Moore Foundation fellow, believes that an improvement in levels of patient engagement is likely to be seen if cultural changes take place in the healthcare industry. Aids to improve shared-decision making and patient engagement have been researched well but are not being used routinely in care.
He says: “Further involving patients in decision-making will mean some changes to how healthcare providers deliver care. Additional training, changes to team-based care models and incentives for adopting this new approach can go a long way toward enabling these changes in the current healthcare system.”
Researchers commentating on this study published in the February edition of Health Affairs also stated that various advocates and health professionals recognise that the sector needs to develop a range of policies and approaches that strengthened a patient’s role in managing their healthcare.
A study from Health Partners in Minnesota demonstrates that online healthcare can reinforce this role. In this study, researchers found that 98% of patients who used the online clinic known as Virtuwell said that they would recommend the site. Healthcare episodes which were managed through this clinic had an average cost of $88 less than care delivered in traditional settings.
Hibbard is currently doing additional research on this topic as a result of a grant through the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation and dean of the University of Oregon, said: “This study and the assessment system that Dr. Hibbard and her team developed are coming to the fore at a key moment in the evolution of our nation's health care system.”
“Research conducted at the University of Oregon is giving rise to new tools and entrepreneurial technologies and creating intelligent solutions to tomorrow's problems today.”
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