- Stronger patient-provider communication and education initiatives are key to boosting patient satisfaction and shared decision-making, shows a recent study conducted by FAIR Health.
The study, which surveyed a sample of 1,000 adults regarding their healthcare wants and needs, ultimately breaks down care preferences and creates the following list of recommendations to deliver better patient-centered care.
Patient education is key
Among the several recommendations listed in the report, one of the most prominent commonalities was the need for robust patient education, specifically around health plan benefits.
“While enrollment-season guidance helps consumers make initial plan choices, educational materials should be available and easily accessible year-round as people use their benefits,” the report explains.
“Increasing healthcare literacy can play a critical role in fostering better healthcare choices. A robust and consistent educational effort can help plan members identify the broad range of care options available, and thereby save money and reduce overall healthcare costs.”
Providers should communicate this information in a way that is easily accessible for patients. For example, health plans and hospitals should understand that much of the patient population now communicates across fast and convenient modalities, like text message or social media interaction.
While providers shouldn’t necessarily use these platforms to discuss personal healthcare anecdotes, they serve as places in which health plans can provide cost-savings suggestions.
Encourage robust patient engagement
While it’s impossible for providers to completely control what their patients do, the report suggests they continue to make strong efforts.
Providers should encourage their patients to take an active role in their own care, and engage in advanced planning for their treatment plans.
When the patient takes the initiative to better understand their health plan, their benefits, and the potential costs of certain treatments, they reduce the chance of a surprising healthcare bill down the road.
“Understanding the costs of different treatment options or comparing costs between in- and out-of-network care can help consumers make informed choices at the point of accessing care,” the report’s authors write.
“Advance planning is particularly important given the growth of both public and private health insurance exchanges in which individuals must now make a range of decisions that will impact their health and their financial lives.”
Providers should also take note of patients willing to engage via non-traditional means, like identifying millennials’ penchant for utilizing digital health tools. Using this knowledge, providers can suggest the use of fitness trackers or other remote monitoring devices, helping the patient to stay engaged in their own care and potentially fulfilling that patient’s preferences.
Identifying and respecting unique patient needs
Healthcare is shifting its focus toward the patient and what she needs, so in the end, providers will need to pick up on all patients’ unique preferences.
Understanding the cultural impact of treatment plans or health insurance plans is crucial in ensuring the patient is pleased with her care. It is also an important step in making sure the patient wants to engage with her healthcare provider.
To understand cultural differences, the report authors suggest consulting outside cultural immersion experts.
“Language translation and the use of diverse channels are critical to outreach efforts, but are not enough,” the report states. “Cultural immersion and building relationships with organizations and experts with deep ties to target communities will help ensure the message resonates with each intended audience.”
Further, health systems will need to acknowledge differences in stage of life, socioeconomic status, and generational differences. Taking these nuances into account will help providers better understand how to target their care, or insurers better develop insurance packages for their customers.
These recommendations were gleaned from a FAIR Health survey of nearly 1,000 adult patients.
The survey, which asked respondents about their preferences regarding care delivery, health insurance options, and care expense management, showed that there were some differences amongst varying patient demographics.
Latinos were more likely to say they access emergency department services during non-emergency situations, while millennial patients were far more likely to report consulting online resources and urgent care when they faced healthcare woes.
Differences also emerge with reference to health insurance package selection and physician selection. Younger respondents saw monthly insurance fees as their bottom lines, while older patients wanted to see their primary care physicians as a part of their insurance networks.
Because the healthcare industry is shifting to patient-centric models, providers will inevitably continue to grapple with differences between individuals within their patient populations.
However, by understanding industry reports on patient trends, as well as efforts to create sincere and deep relationships with patients, providers can continue into the shift toward patient-centered care.