A ROADMAP TO ACHIEVE LONG-TERM PATIENT HEALTH
In a world where stress levels and stress-related diseases are at an all-time, post-pandemic high (see post-pandemic stress disorder), it is crucial that we bring innovations to enhance patient engagement with a focus on improving long-term health outcomes.
Traditional patient engagement focused on addressing the patient’s non-adherence in performing specific actions or complying with specific protocols. It was a paternalistic model of care, in which clinicians simply told the patient what they should and should not do. That was a limited approach, with a limited impact on patients’ long-term health.
A re-imagined approach to patient engagement takes a more patient-centric behavioral science approach, empowering the patient to manage “the physical, psychological, and social aspects of their self-care.” The patient works with the medical staff, a collaboration that promotes positive patient behavior and allows the clinician-patient relationship to become one of collaboration and mutual respect.
This empowerment, which can be divided into a Four-Step Patient-Engagement Process, creates the environment wherein unique program designs and technical innovations can thrive.
The Four-Step Patient-Engagement Process
Step 1 represents the Information-Gathering Phase. It is during this crucial stage that patients share relevant information to the clinician about their health concerns and are thereafter provided key facts pertinent to the patient’s health journey. This stage must be thoroughly completed before determining any medical course of action.
- Unique programs design: One such program created by Ash field Engage utilizes Specialized Clinical Educators who are trained in motivational interviewing techniques and can handle home visits, outbound and inbound phone support, as well as oversight of health treatment plan adherence. These clinical educators may provide a more comfortable and supportive environment for the patient to reveal critical health information.
- Tech Innovations: The digital experience between the clinician and the patient can begin at the point where the patient researches a health concern and can continue with digital information provided to the patient before his/her first visit. Patient relations management platforms use fact sheets, questionnaires, and intake forms to help to gather vital information while managing first visit expectations.
Step 2 represents the Education Phase, during which communication between the clinician and the patient is key. This step requires the ability of both the clinician and the patient to listen, understand, and engage in conversation built upon mutual respect. It also requires clinicians to provide information to help the patient make the best possible decisions about their own care.
- Unique program designs: Clinicians are creating Health Support Groups amongst patients with common struggles who can uplift one another during medical challenges. These support groups help patients know they are not alone and that they have a place to feel connected and understood. The groups also serve as places where clinicians can provide education through workshops, webinars, film, and other creative outlets, thereby advancing knowledge while fostering trusting clinician-patient relationships.
- Tech innovations: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning offer a new and perhaps better way for clinicians to diagnose disease and determine the best treatment plans. With AI, the clinician’s education process can be timelier and more efficient, yielding greater accuracy. Clinicians can also use Digital Twins technology to create patient-specific models that can simulate any system or process, reflecting the unique situational variables affecting a particular patient and their treatment. The simulations allow better assessment of treatment options, among other benefits.
Step 3is the Decision Phase, wherein the patient and clinician collaborate to review the patient’s condition and treatment options before determining the best pathway forward. This phase is based upon shared decision making, in which the patient is a co-author on any final decisions. This enhanced patient role in decision-making has led to reduced hospital costs, fewer surgeries, and fewer hospital admissions.
- Unique program designs: An innovative approach is to use Trained Health Coaches to aid the patient via phone, text, or internet in the decision-making process. This approach was used by David Veroff at Health Dialog in a large, randomized study involving patients with one or more of six different preference-sensitive conditions. Patients given access to the health coaches yielded better overall health results.
- Tech innovations: Extended Reality (Virtual and Mixed Reality) can help illustrate the patient’s health-related experiences. While Virtual Reality can help patients visualize their disease or impairment; Mixed Reality intertwine the virtual and real worlds to provide critical education. This information allows patients to understand their conditions and their treatment options, placing them in a better position to make critical healthcare decisions. The technology is estimated to reach $5.1 billion in the healthcare market by 2025.
Step 4 represents the Communication and Community-Building Phase, wherein the patient remains connected to the clinician and the healthcare system, facilitating patient adherence to medical protocols and treatment plans.
The key to this phase is to continue the communication link with the patient after their immediate medical need is resolved, while building a Community Health Team that will promote long-term wellness and preventative care. Creating a medium for continued communication strengthens the patient-clinician relationship.
- Unique program designs: After assessing the patient’s ongoing needs, the clinician can bring in other professionals, such as a personal trainer, a health coach, a breathing coach, a sleep coach, a meditation expert, etc., as needed. This “village approach” can positively impact a patient’s long-term health and preventative-care plan.
- Tech Innovations: Remote healthcare and telemedicine provide a way for patients to remain connected with their clinicians from the comfort of their homes. It allows physicians to examine and treat patients remotely, thereby expanding access to care.
The focus on improving patient engagement continues. By combining technical advances with practical human intervention, patients are poised to become true partners in improving their own health outcomes.