By Jordan Dolin, Co-founder of Emmi Solutions
All new models of care, including ACOs, medical homes and shared savings, are looking to answer the same question: What’s the most cost-effective and efficient way to manage the health of large populations? This is a major challenge, and I’ve found patient engagement is an ideal way to address the issue. However, patient engagement needs to happen both within and beyond the four walls of the hospital, especially when it comes to preventive care.
Patients not following recommended screenings and preventive services are a large contributing factor to the spiraling cost of healthcare. For example, despite colorectal cancer being the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and one of the most preventable, only 53 percent of people 50 years and older follow recommendations for screenings.
On the surface, the new preventive services provision under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should help address this issue, as the screenings are one of many preventive services recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force that insurers must now cover without cost-sharing.
Yet, even with an estimated 71 million Americans now eligible for copay-free colonoscopies, what remains to be seen is the level at which these patients will take advantage of the benefit.
That’s why forward-thinking health plans, hospitals and physicians are turning to outcomes-driven patient engagement solutions that close gaps in care and inspire patients to take action.
The following engagement strategies are powerful ways healthcare professionals can increase utilization of preventive services as well as member satisfaction and loyalty:
- Multi-modal communication: If the goal is to put patients at the center of care, then patient messaging efforts need to be designed with their convenience in mind. Patients need tools that allow them to be engaged on their terms, when and where they choose and on the devices they already own.
- Customized contact: Tools such as the Patient Activation Measure (PAM) that gauge individual members’ ability and interest in managing their own health and healthcare can be used to meet patients where they are, tailor engagement strategies and increase activation levels.
- Web-based interactive programs: Web-based programs cannot only increase the bandwidth of providers, free more time for the delivery of care and motivate patients to schedule colorectal cancer screenings and other types of preventive care, but they can also help patients to follow through. A study presented last year at Digestive Disease Week found that patients who viewed a 30-minute online instructional video were 40 percent more likely to keep their colonoscopy appointments.
- Financial incentives: Financial incentives and wellness programs can be great motivators—if members know about them. Effective programs engage patients not only about the health benefits of preventive care, but also the more tangible ones, such as insurance premium reductions for adherence to scheduled screenings.
Empowering patients isn’t just good for their health—it’s good for disease management and the business of managed care.
Jordan Dolin is co-founder of Emmi Solutions (www.emmisolutions.com), a healthcare communications company that builds technology-focused patient empowerment solutions for health organizations that measurably impact outcomes.
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