Making Patient Engagement Profitable

Over the past 10 years, ‘patient engagement’ and ‘patient experience’ have emerged as buzzwords for health systems, payers, providers and the pharmaceutical industry. However, it is often stuck in the realm of nice-to-haves, living in the marketing world, and not critical for integrating solutions to support its improvement. The move to value-based-care models and the increased impact of HCAHPS scores have changed the discussion in the hospital setting but have not completely trickled down to ambulatory care or private-practice care. In the healthcare world, it’s obvious there is a detriment to bad patient experience when it comes to reputation management and online reviews. But, does the same apply to negative patient engagement? And, is there additive value to creating an environment with excellent patient engagement and experience? Research shows that answer is a resounding “yes.”

Engaged or “activated patients” are patients that are educated on their care management and in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  These patients can be engaged through a variety of tools including telehealth, coaching and peer support. A cross-sectional study found that these patients have a decreased likelihood of an emergency department visit or hospitalization. This is especially true with patients suffering from a chronic condition.

While this value is clear in an accountable care organization (ACO) or bundled care offering, patient engagement is also key in a fee-for-service model. Chronic care patients, which include chronic pain patients, tend to be drivers of time-intensive visits -- preventing more patients on the schedule. They’re also heavily involved in non-reimbursable frequent communication, which enhances physician burnout. Additionally, these patients require more documentation and, therefore, more burdensome time spent logging notes in the EHR.

In addition to the financial benefit of patient engagement, it’s also something patients want: more than 50% said they want to be engaged and only 12% feel their provider is doing a good job of it. This large discrepancy can be addressed with dramatic results. When you have engaged a patient and helped the patient visualize the success they’ve seen, you can empower them to share their experience. Since more than 80% of patients use online review sites to select a doctor, creating a positive patient experience can lead to financial windfall, as well. Think positive reviews, word of mouth referrals and patient retention. The next phase of these ratings will likely contain more than just free text excerpts but quantifiable improvements from these engaged patients.

Finally, newly unveiled CPT codes from the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) are making it even more financially beneficial to engage chronic care patients. Remote patient monitoring codes reimburse providers who arm patients with the tools to track physiological metrics out of the office and who review this data monthly. This data can not only prevent trips to the hospital through early intervention and identifying anomalies -  it can also offer patients the tools to effectively and confidently self manage their conditions.

Accessing value-add tools for chronic condition patient engagement and experience is easier than ever. There are dozens of products available for the management of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and COPD, including Livongo, HoyaHealth, Health Recovery Solutions , and GOMO Health and Propeller Health. For chronic pain care and management, Upside Health’s Ouchie solution is leading the way.

While adopting and integrating any new technology or offerings can seem overwhelming, most of these products were designed with both the healthcare provider and patient in mind to make the experience as easy and exciting as possible. Patient experience and engagement are no longer just buzzwords. Given the opportunity that enhancing them provides, it’s an investment worth making.