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Patient Engagement Technology, Value-Based Care Key 2018 Trends

2018 will bring more patient engagement technology and an increased effort to meet value-based care model challenges.

2018 patient engagement trends

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- The new year is fast approaching, leaving healthcare professionals looking ahead in preparation for 2018. Medical experts can expect to see innovations in patient engagement technology, efforts in value-based care models, an emphasis on community health partnerships, and more consumerism in healthcare going into the new year.

Healthcare providers need to work to support the patient in all aspects of their wellness journeys. Providing outreach and a positive experience using innovative technology will deliver on the promise of better healthcare at a lower cost.

Likewise, strategies to support value-based healthcare and conduct strong patient outreach within the community will take hold in 2018. As providers become responsible for a patient’s wellness, providers must identify methods by which they can address health-related needs outside of the doctor’s office.

Below, PatientEngagementHIT.com breaks down the top predictions for the patient engagement landscape coming in 2018.

Innovative patient engagement technology

Technology in the patient engagement space is not a new idea. Regulations requiring providers to offer patients access to their own health data via a patient portal are at the core of many current patient engagement strategies.

READ MORE: Key Reminders for 2018 Patient Engagement Reporting Requirements

However, going into 2018 healthcare professionals will begin to turn toward patient engagement technology innovations that permeate multiple aspects of the patient experience.

Many organizations are tapping online appointment scheduling technology, for example. These tools allow patients to schedule their doctor’s appointments at their own pace and create a more seamless process for doing so.

At the Ohio-based Summa Healthcare, organization leaders implemented online appointment scheduling to offer patients a more retail-like experience, according to the hospital system’s Vice President of Business Development & Access Ellen Smith.

“If you look really closely at Amazon, it’s really hard to find a phone number because you can fulfill what you need through the online experience,” Smith said. “We’re working to provide that. It’s certainly an evolution and a work in progress for us, but if someone selects to do business with us online, we want to fulfill that need through an exceptional online experience.”

Other organizations are using outreach tools to help drive success in certain care models. Triad HealthCare Networks is an accountable care organization (ACO) that adopted a tool to support extensive patient outreach efforts.

READ MORE: Patient Experience, Pop Health Strategies Lead 2017 Headlines

Patient outreach pertained to certain quality benchmarks mandated by the ACO model, according to Elissa Langley, Triad’s director of accountable care operations.

“We really needed a way to try to reach out to our patients,” Langley shared in an interview with PatientEngagementHIT.com. “One of our very first campaigns was a pilot flu campaign in two of our practices. We were able to move the needle. Those two practices moved from the 50th percentile to the 60th percentile.”

And at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, organization leaders have adopted virtual reality technology to improve the patient experience for children who might have trouble coping with nerve-wracking procedures. Amy Dunn, MD, is the director of the hospital’s hemophilia clinic and uses the VR to help patients who are afraid of the regular needle sticks and intravenous treatments.

The technology helps assuage patients of their fears of the doctor and makes treatments easier for nurses and parents.

Technology is continually advancing, and new innovations are on the horizon. As more organizations begin new projects to improve patient care, they will turn to groundbreaking technologies to help support these efforts going into 2018.

Patient engagement to support value-based care models

READ MORE: How Patient Portals Improve Patient Engagement

Value-based care models have already taken hold in the healthcare industry, and those payment structures are likely not going away. The industry will continue to tip from fee-for-service payments toward more value-based ones.

As a result, organizations must engage their patients to meet certain quality metrics that determine reimbursement rates. Benchmarks such as 30-day hospital readmissions or mortality rates can be improved by better communicating with patients, research has indicated.

A 2017 study published in BMJ Quality & Safety found that better patient-provider communication and higher patient satisfaction scores can reduce the likelihood of rehospitalization by 39 percent. Patients who perceive their doctors as truly listening to them were 32 percent less likely to be readmitted.

Better patient engagement can also improve patient goal-setting and overall wellness. In many value-based payment structures, providers see success when patients can maintain a consistently high level of health. Better communication and patient education can better support patients in these efforts.

As more organizations adopt value-based care models, they must look at all aspects of the medical encounter to drive success. Participating in a value-based care model goes beyond understanding the financial aspects. Organizations need to understand how to work with patients to ensure providers can meet the necessarily clinical metrics that will reap financial results.

Community health partnerships, the social determinants of health

Industry experts are increasingly recognizing that patient health extends beyond the four walls of the doctor’s office. Instead, patient health is related to housing conditions, socioeconomic status, social barriers, educational attainment, and other factors known as the social determinants of health.

Because these elements reach beyond the traditional aspects of healthcare, hospitals, and other medical groups have worked to forge community partnerships that support patient health. Community groups and hospitals alone cannot undertake all community social needs alone. Partnerships allow groups to share resources to meaningfully tackle a problem.

In McCook, Nebraska, local hospitals partnered with the community’s fire departments and EMS workers to conduct home visits. These home visits ensured that patient homes were safe for recovery and helped get patients care when the patient otherwise could not visit the hospital.

National programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) help address food security issues and can reduce hospital utilization by 14 percent. Delivering consistent access to healthy foods helps patients maintain their overall wellness, eventually costing them, their health payers, and the industry at large less money.

Forging community health partnerships is no easy feat, and the best practices for doing so are still developing. Going into 2018, organizations can expect to see more need for these social supports to help address better health for a whole community.

Consumerism in healthcare

Heading into 2018, healthcare professionals will likely continue to see patients enrolled on high-deductible health plans, which in turn yield high out-of-pocket patient costs. Although patient financial responsibility can hinder patient access to care, it can also embolden the patient. As patients put more of their own dollars on the line, they want to find a care experience worth their money.

Patients are becoming smarter shoppers. They are looking up their providers before booking an appointment, making sure their clinical and personal needs will be met. Online provider reviews, although often frustrating for doctors, are here to stay with patients. Providers need to understand what patients are looking for to yield better reviews.

Patients are also looking to become informed of the costs of healthcare. There are very few industries in which the customer goes in blind to the cost of a service. Although healthcare is often opaque about financial responsibility, this is beginning to change.

States are making their own requirements for offering price transparency in healthcare. Some individual providers are also looking into strategies for informing patients about their financial responsibility.

The patient engagement landscape is certainly changing, but those changes reflect other improvements in the healthcare industry. As technology and payment models advance, providers will need to adapt to stay current and drive success.

Likewise, organizations will need to grapple with the evolving role of the patient. Patient health is no longer limited to the four walls of the hospital, and organizations need strong community health efforts to address that fact.

Likewise, patients are taking the form of healthcare consumers who are empowered in their care decisions. Adopting a more retail-style strategy will ensure providers deliver a quality care experience.

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