Last week our parent company, HealthEd, convened a panel at the DTC National conference on patient engagement. We invited three leaders to the conversation – Sam Stolpe, a pharmacist from the Pharmacy Quality Alliance, Kate Berry, former CEO of the National eHealth Collaborative and Hope Warshaw, a nationally known diabetes educator. The conversation was wide-ranging, starting with the basics (what patient is engagement really?) and moving on to the practical (how can marketers and healthcare communicators create solutions to engage patients?)
A number of themes came through during the panel. First was the role of health IT in facilitating engagement through access to that most basic of health information – the medical record. Kate Berry asked by a show of hands how many people had access to their own patient record. Only a scattering of hands went up – a clear indication of how far we still need to go to achieve the intent of Meaningful Use. There are lots of reasons to believe that when interoperability between EMRs occurs and patients finally have access to their electronic health record, it will be the single most powerful moment in the movement towards the empowered patient.
A second theme voiced by Sam Stolpe is the importance of building patient education events into the healthcare system. Sam spoke about an innovative approach at pharmacy where medication refill schedules are coordinated so that customers who are on multiple meds receive all their refills at once. The pharmacist then can have an effective conversation with the patient about their medications and changes that might have occurred in the past 30 days. The program is a true win-win for the pharmacy (creating loyalty) and the patient. Moreover, it turns the transactional event of picking up medicine into an educational moment.
The third theme that was passionately supported by Hope Warshaw is the critical role of the patient educator – the human being who is at the end of a phone, across the counter in the pharmacy, or in the exam room. Patient Engagement doesn’t happen in a vacuum. First, there needs to be clear, well-designed health information (something we know a lot about at HealthEd). And there needs to be an educator who bridges understanding, expands on what patients know, and helps patients and caregivers to ask questions and take action that they wouldn’t make on their own.
So, what is Patient Engagement? Ask a room full of marketers or health care practitioners and you’d probably get a different answer from everyone. But with validated measures such as the Patient Activation Measure (from Insignia Health) the buzzword is being translated into a measurable construct. The PAM measure has been shown to be highly predictive of self-care and adherence behaviors. So, whether you call it Patient Engagement, Patient Activation or Patient Empowerment – it’s a process that takes supportive technology, plans and systems that embrace and support education and the utilization of educated and empathic agents who can engage patients in committing to taking positive healthy actions.
This blog was authored by
Todd Greenwood, PhD, MPH,
VP, Innovation & Strategy, HealthEd