Guest Post: Healthcare Choices, Patient Voices

A critically important goal of healthcare reform is to deliver patient-centric care.  However, in today’s busy practice of medicine, patients are too often asked to decide on care without fully understanding their options and without the opportunity to think about their preferences.  We make few decisions as important or personal as those affecting our health, yet too often our voice as a patient is not heard.

Healthcare decisions, particularly those regarding care for which there are multiple evidence-based options, (preference sensitive) are common.  82% of adults over the age of 40 have made a decision about a surgery, test, or new medication in the past two years.[i]  Too often physicians lack the training, resources, or time to educate patients on the risks and benefits of their various care options. Doctors do even less well with exploring patients’ personal preferences.  Because patients don’t know what they don’t know, it’s simply not possible to obtain truly informed consent from a patient who is not informed.  Risks and benefit discussions aren’t really meaningful without a full explanation of options and a full exploration of personal preferences.

A Shared Decision Making approach to care educates patients about any and all medically sound treatment options and helps them sort through the confusing clutter of medical terms and acronyms.  Patients are informed on the risks, benefits, trade-offs, and side effects of each viable choice. This approach puts the patient at the center of the decision, ensuring that the selection is not only clinically appropriate, but also the right course for them.   Thus prepared, patients can then have a better quality discussion about their treatment options with their physicians, which is the goal of Shared Decision Making.

As we continue to debate ways to improve quality and reduce costs, Shared Decision Making emerges as one such way.  Patients who go through a Shared Decision Making process tend to choose less invasive procedures[ii], which in turn leads to better outcomes and reduced spend. The patients are happier too, reporting a better care experience and improved doctor-patient communication.[iii]  This approach to care is both effective and practical. It has been successfully adopted in busy medical practices across the country resulting in more loyal patients and more satisfied clinicians.

Healthcare choices are hard. Knowing you even have a choice is paramount. Shared Decision Making will draw out patient voices where they so critically need to be heard.

Dr. Peter Goldbach brings more than 30 years of experience to Health Dialog’s management team, including 15 years of experience in medical administration and 17 years maintaining a primary care and pulmonary disease practice. Prior to joining Health Dialog, Dr. Goldbach served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Med-Vantage Inc., a healthcare informatics and engagement company. Before that, Dr. Goldbach was Medical Director for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, where he provided medical direction for the company’s “Pay for Performance” and eHealth programs. In other previous roles, Dr. Goldbach has held CEO, trustee, and medical staff president positions with two Boston-area community hospitals.

Dr. Goldbach received an undergraduate and master’s degree from UCLA and his medical degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at George Washington University Hospital, and his Pulmonary Disease fellowship at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center / UCLA School of Medicine.

[i] Zikmund-Fisher., et al. The DECISIONS Study. Medical Decision Making. Sep-Oct 2010.

[ii] Decision Aids for People Facing Health Treatment or Screening Decisions. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2011 October 5;(10).

[iii] Ibid.

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CCA invites guest bloggers to post on Voice on Population Health Blog as a benefit for our members and the industry and to allow for exchange of ideas and information regarding population health.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and/or of the company the author represents and do not represent those of the Care Continuum Alliance (CCA), its members, or the industry as a whole. CCA is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this guest post article. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author(s) and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

 

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Guest Post: Enabling the Consumer

The statistics can overwhelm: More than 35% of Americans are obese (CDC).  More than 38% of Americans work more than 50 hours a week (libraryspot).  On average, people spend more than $7,000 annually on health care (Forbes).  Employers are increasingly moving towards high deductible health plans for employees (USA Today).

To many consumers, health care may seem to be an uncontrollable morass.  But consumers can take control of their actions around health and wellness.  All of us can get fit.  We can find that right work-life balance.  We can make our own decisions around care.  We simply need to take action.

As my wife would say, “Can we hit the pause button, just reflect and adjust?”  With Consumer Driven Health Plans, consumers need to pause, reflect and adjust as they make health care decisions that have a more direct personal financial impact.  To make informed, personally appropriate health care decisions, people need information on the go, at the point of care, at work, 27/7 365 days a week.

That’s where UnitedHealth Group comes in. We bring you the decision-making tools, applications and services you need to make your health care decisions at any time, any place.    Tools such as:

  • Health4Me, an app that provides information on the go about locating an Urgent Care or Emergency room, getting a Medical ID card electronically, getting claims data, contacting nurselines and customer service;
  •  OptumizeMe,  an app that helps you track your fitness activities through goal-setting, set up challenges for your social network,  and connect you to Health and Wellness coaches;
  • Fitness Gaming, a way to engage in healthy activity through gaming;
  • Baby Blocks,  an app to help Mom and Baby get the care they need during pregnancy and the first 15 months of baby’s life; and
  • myHealthcare Cost Estimator, an online tool that helps consumers price procedures performed by Doctors and Clinics .

Consumers can use all these tools to take control of their health and wellness needs.  UnitedHealth Group will highlight them at the Care Continuum Alliance’s Population Health Innovations Showcase July 11.  We look forward to seeing  you at the Innovation Showcase, and showing you the many ways UnitedHealth Group is empowering consumers to make the health care decisions that are best for them.

Patrick Keran is a Senior Director of Information Technology of Innovation at UnitedHealth Group helping drive strategic initiatives to cut healthcare costs by enabling consumer action through various innovations.  Patrick has been in Healthcare for the last 7 years and in the overall Information Technology industry the last 20 years.

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CCA invites guest bloggers to post on Voice on Population Health Blog as a benefit for our members and the industry and to allow for exchange of ideas and information regarding population health.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and/or of the company the author represents and do not represent those of the Care Continuum Alliance (CCA), its members, or the industry as a whole. CCA is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this guest post article. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author(s) and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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