- Patients are increasingly embracing a holistic view of their own health, focusing on elements of overall patient wellness and mental health, according to a recent survey from Aetna.
The Health Ambitions study, which included a survey of 1,000 adult healthcare consumers, found that patients have health and wellness goals that center on both physical and mental well-being.
For example, if given an extra hour each day, 60 percent of patients would spend it improving their physical and mental health. When looking at just women, this number increased to 67 percent; for men, it was 44 percent.
Thirty-one percent of patients said they would spend that time tracking and analyzing their own health data and 18 percent of patients said they would spend an extra hour discussing their health-related goals with their doctors.
Some patients also reported they would spend that extra time sorting their finances or bonding with family or friends, two activities that may have indirect consequences on their overall health.
Patients also have their own personal health-related goals. While most of them center on better eating and fitness (58 and 54 percent, respectively), a noteworthy number of patients also expressed interest in reducing their stress (40 percent) and improving their mental health (36 percent).
Thirty-nine percent of patients said they want to improve their sleeping habits, 34 percent want to achieve financial improvement, 19 percent aim to find better work/life balance, and 6 percent wish to quit smoking.
Better access to care and patient-provider relationships are reportedly key to achieving these wellness goals, the survey revealed. Sixty-six percent of patients said it’s very important to have doctors’ appointment access when they need them, and 59 percent said having access to clinicians who coordinate their care is important.
It will not be enough to simply have access to a clinician, however. Patients want their providers to be familiar with their own health needs, including their mental health history (86 percent). Eighty-four percent said it’s also important for their primary care providers to understand how they handle stress.
Thirty percent of all people said conversations with their providers improve their wellness journeys, and 59 percent said it’s essential doctors discuss healthcare costs with patients.
Despite that need for patient-provider communication, the survey showed that patients mostly speak to their providers in the office. Seventy-two percent of patients said they primarily communicate with their providers during wellness visits, while 65 percent said they also speak with providers when they are in for a sick visit.
Health IT could open up those communication lines by making patient-provider communication more convenient. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said digital messages via email, text, or secure message would increase patient-provider communication.
Thirty-two percent said virtual doctors’ visits could also improve communication.
Health IT also has the potential to guide patients in their own wellness activities. Forty-three percent of respondents said apps help them meet their health goals, with 40 percent saying they’re already using an electronic diary to manage their health information and 30 percent saying they use a wearable to track health metrics.
The patient focus on wellness and holistic health goals is unsurprising as it aligns with the wave of value-based care models that have been adopted across the country. These models center on overall patient wellness and delivering care that is based on value, not volume, of services.
Aetna also surveyed 400 doctors – half of whom were involved in a value-based care agreement – to determine how value-based care models align with patient health needs.
Seventy percent of clinicians in a value-based care agreement said they are encouraging patient wellness by recommending their patients set their own wellness goals. Only 56 percent of doctors in fee-for-service models do the same.
It is also important for payers to become involved in meeting patient wellness goals, according to Aetna President Karen Lynch. This includes offering resources and access to care that will help patients obtain their goals.
“As Aetna evolves to a health company, we are committed to partnering with our members on their health care journeys, providing better access to community resources and affordable, local care options as well as digital tools that provide insights into one’s personal health,” Lynch said in a statement. “And in doing so, Aetna is in the position to help transform care delivery and experiences for all of our members.”