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Healthcare Execs Focus on Patient Engagement, Population Health

Over half of healthcare executives are focusing on patient engagement and population health management, a new survey finds.

Healthcare executives are paying close attention to patient engagement and population health, according to the Advisory Board Company’s Annual Health Care CEO Survey.

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While the healthcare industry shifts its focus towards value-based and patient-centered outcomes, executives are looking to fill gaps in their practice workflows. To account for the major role the patient is now playing in healthcare, these hospital leaders look to patient engagement, satisfaction, and population health management strategies.

Approximately half of executive respondents stated that they are interested in focusing on consumer needs and expectations in the healthcare setting. An additional 45 percent of respondents stated that they are focused on identifying patient engagement strategies.

The Advisory Board also asked the executive respondents to rank their highest priorities out of 25 healthcare-related topics. These topics covered various aspects of the healthcare industry, including the cost of drugs and hospital and insurance mergers. Three out of the top five most highly prioritized topics centered on the patient.

  1. Engaging physicians in minimizing clinical variation (53%)
  2. Redesigning health system services for population health (52%)
  3. Meeting rising consumer expectations for service (47%)
  4. Patient engagement strategies (45%)
  5. Controlling avoidable utilization (44%)

This is a notable change from last year’s survey, Advisory Board says. While engaging physicians in minimizing clinical variation was also a high priority in 2015, the focus on population health and the controlling of avoidable utilization jumped up in the ranks for this year.

Leaders at the Advisory Board say this patient-centered focus shift is most likely due to value-based payment models that are gaining traction.

"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' accelerating transition to alternative payment models is driving providers to redefine their business models," said Chas Roades, Chief Research Officer at The Advisory Board Company.  "The Annual CEO Survey shows that hospital and health system executives are embracing strategies like population health to help make shift from treating patients to preventing illness."

Lisa Bielamowicz, MD, chief medical officer at The Advisory Board Company, says that this changing focus is about reconciling patient needs with the push for better revenue cycle management.

"Health systems are facing a push toward consumerization, fueled by more patient financial accountability, as well as the push to population health and managing the total cost of care," Bielamowicz said. "Health systems are seeking strategies that bring together these potentially conflicting market forces."

These hospital executive viewpoints reflect how providers view patient engagement, too. Earlier this year at HIMSS 2016, the organization published a survey showing that almost half of healthcare professionals use connected health technology to engage their patients.

Respondents to the 2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey listed a litany of apps that they use to promote patient engagement, including patient portals, with 58 percent of respondents reporting using one. Other popular engagement tools include patient education/patient engagement apps, remote patient monitoring systems, telehealth technology, SMS texting, patient-generated health data technology, and concierge service telehealth.

It is a good thing that providers and hospital executives are getting on the same page with regard to patient engagement. Patient engagement is proving to be a vital part of healthcare practice, with patients reporting preferences for engagement tools and higher satisfaction ratings when they are fully engaged.

Going forward, providers and hospital executives alike will need to ride this wave of patient engagement and population health management. By putting the patient first, they are not only benefiting from value-based payment models, but through higher patient satisfaction and loyalty.