- From different government programs such as accountable care organizations (ACOs) to the EHR meaningful use programs, population health management through patient engagement has become a significant healthcare initiative.
As the healthcare industry continues to move toward a value-based model, it will become important for providers to understand how to maintain population health and deliver patient-centered care. Through the use of health IT and mHealth apps, as well as through patient-centered, compassionate care, physicians have the power to improve population health management through various patient engagement practices.
Utilize patient portals and patient-generated health data
Providing patients with a complete picture of their health history is a critical part of increasing patient engagement and population health management. For starters, increasing patient access to health information via the patient portal helps to empower the patient in his or her care. When the patient feels empowered, she is more likely to continue working toward better health.
Accepting patient-generated health data is another important part of making the patient feel empowered in his or her care. By integrating data collected from a remote monitoring tool or a fitness app into the patient’s health record, the patient feels valued by the provider and is able to see what she can do to improve her own health.
Patient-generated health data can also help fill in data gaps between office visits. This is particularly important for chronically ill patients. When patients aren’t in the hospital or visiting with their physicians, it is important that they are able to report how their health is. For example, a patient with diabetes is able to report his glucose levels to his physician to track the progress of his illness.
According to industry experts, both of these benefits go hand-in-hand. The addition of the raw data patients can contribute in addition to what they feel is important to contribute can provide a physician insights she otherwise may not have had.
“Using electronically collected patient-reported outcomes to capture the review of system outside of the clinic visit may not only improve the efficiency, completeness, and accuracy of data collection for the review of system, but also provide the opportunity to operationalize incorporating the patient’s voice into the electronic health record,” wrote Arlene E. Chung and Ethan M. Basch in a Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association article.
Using mHealth devices to track patient health
As stated above, patient-generated health data holds a promise to help increase patient engagement and positively impact population health management. For many patients, this data comes from the use of an mHealth app or device, such as a wearable fitness tracker.
These kinds of devices have an inherent value to them in that they do help create patient-generated health data, which in turn can help physicians fill in data gaps in their EHRs. However, mHealth devices are also quite valuable because they help keep a chronically ill patient engaged in her health and keep track of positive health and lifestyle decisions.
For example, a patient who struggles with obesity may download a fitness app on her smartphone. This app could include a fitness tracker which logs her steps and other physical activities. By being engaged in and keeping up with these apps, the patient will ideally be more likely to stay on top of her fitness.
This has overarching benefits across the healthcare spectrum. When that patient gets healthier, she’ll need fewer medications, fewer services, and fewer hospitalizations.
Reducing medication non-adherence
Population health management via patient engagement can also be done outside the realm of health IT. For example, patient engagement can help decrease medication non-adherence.
Toward the end of last year, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) conducted a study that examined the effectiveness of appointment-based medication synchronization (ABMS) in decreasing medication non-adherence. The research team found that ABMS made patients 2.57 times more likely to remain adherent to their medications.
ABMS is a patient engagement strategy that networks different approaches such as medication synchronization programs, appointment reminders, and pharmacist staff patient engagement strategies. By combining all of these approaches into one, the patient was made more actively engaged in his or her treatment plan, and was able to reduce his medication non-adherence.
This approach works because it reduces some of the work burden placed on the pharmacy staff. Because those burdens are reduced, the staff are better able to engage with the patient. According to the researchers, this has an especially positive effect on medication non-adherence.
“By simplifying the pharmacy’s workflow, the pharmacist has more time for valuable patient interactions and other services that help improve health outcomes,” the researchers claimed. “Patients’ personal connection with a pharmacist or pharmacy staff is the number one predictor of medication adherence.”