Patient engagement is a top priority for both health systems and health plans in population health management. This is defined as the ability for an individual to understand his/her role in the healthcare process, while also employing the knowledge, skill and confidence to take action. According to a study published in Health Affairs, increased levels of patient engagement can improve outcomes as well as lower healthcare costs. So how can health systems and health plans increase patient engagement?
The challenge is giving patients the right information at the right time, through the right channels to increase awareness and thought process about their treatment. Let's use minimally invasive surgery (MIS) as an example. Despite its numerous advantages, including lower costs and shorter patient hospital stays*, minimally invasive surgery is widely under-utilized in the United States, as we shared in a recent post. As a result, when patients are recommended for surgery, they are sometimes unaware that a minimally invasive approach may be a viable option.
Increasing patient engagement around treatment options like MIS requires collaboration between multiple key stakeholders including health systems, payers and industry partners. In a recent pilot program, we worked with UnitedHealthcare to increase awareness around MIS clinical pathways, and in turn, improve clinical, economic, and workplace productivity outcomes. This partnership began during a meeting with UnitedHealthcare's senior leadership when they asked what our organization was doing to help our own employees understand the benefits of minimally invasive surgery. After a collaborative dialogue, a first of its kind pilot was born: The MIS Education Program.
The MIS Education Program introduced an animated e-learning experience for patients who were recommended for one of nine common surgeries where both open surgery and MIS are performed. The experience was designed to encourage better patient/physician dialogue. Each qualified patient who completed the e-learning experience had the opportunity to review why a surgery was performed, how open and laparoscopic surgeries are different, and what to expect.
The results of this treatment decision support pilot for the test group were impressive:
• 76% of the participants elected for MIS procedures which represented a 27% weighted increase in minimally invasive surgeries over 12 months.
• 91% of the candidates reported increased awareness/thinking around MIS options.
In addition, patients experienced improved clinical outcomes and there was an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 in annual savings resulting from reduced healthcare expenditures as well as reduced lost work time from work (wages). And, that is just for this group of 8,000 employees and their eligible dependents. This program is being expanded to UnitedHealthcare and Optum members. Large self-funded hospital systems are also exploring the program for application with their employees/and or patients. Alignment of all key stakeholders in the healthcare delivery system is the true catalyst for meaningful change in this value-based healthcare environment.