Is patient engagement over-hyped?
The chief scientist for pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts won't go that far, but years of experience from a career studying what makes patients tick makes Bob Nease at least consider the possibility.
“It's taken us decades to get fat,” Nease told an audience of healthcare industry leaders in Chicago on Wednesday for the 9th annual Health and Life Sciences Executive Forum hosted by Microsoft. “We're not going to get skinny for a while. We should not pretend that the issue is that people just aren't trying hard enough. I am a little more skeptical that patient engagement is some sort of magic wand.”
Patient engagement was the theme of the two-day conference.
A big problem, Nease said, is our focus—or the lack thereof—a recurrent human trait, hard-wired into us through evolution. Nease, with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, holds a doctorate from Stanford University in decision analysis.
“Your brains are absolutely miraculous,” Nease said. “They process 10 megabits per second,” about the same speed as the first Ethernet cable. Yet most of that activity is subliminal, such as operations of the limbic system, one of the oldest, most primitive parts of the brain.
The limbic system “tells you what feels good or bad,” Nease said, but it is concerned only with what happens now. Its cost-benefit calculations consider only the present, in contrast to those of the prefrontal cortex, where cost-benefit factors are calculated regardless of time.
“The part that you're aware of, your conscious mind, that part of your brain runs at 50 bits (a second),” Nease said. “Human attention is incredibly scarce. There may be more helium in the room than attention.”