An article published yesterday in Wall Street Journal The Health-Care Industry Is Pushing Patients to Help Themselves – Providers are Using Tech Tools and Personalized Approaches to Get Patients More Engaged
The Institute of Medicine, which cited patient engagement as key to an effective health-care system in a 2012 report, urged doctors to use technology to fill the gap.
One basic step is making sure people have easy access to their medical records online, so they can do things like check their data to make sure it’s accurate and all their doctors have the same information. Some providers are offering after-visit summaries and providing patients with access to their doctor’s notes about them.
Becoming familiar with one’s own health records can help patients better understand their own condition and have more informed conversations with doctors, says Lygeia Ricciardi, director of the Office of Consumer eHealth in the federal office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. And with the flood of new fitness and health apps, consumers can plug in data from their own medical record, such as generating a fitness regimen that takes into account a knee injury, weight and blood pressure. “Getting access to personal health information is the start of engaging patients to be full partners in their care,” she says.
This is a very important trend and it is critical that these patient engagement issues are kept in front of the reading public. Thank you Ileana for posting this article.
However, there is no data, beyond the isolated examples, that validate conclusively, across the nation, how many doctors are actually working with patients to help them manage their health. Sadly all too few.
We need concrete action programs that we put into the hands of our time-strapped physicians to help them work with patients. We need better incentives for patients so they will pay attention to their health issues, become more informed about their opportunities for managing their health, and work toward achieving better outcomes.
This common enthusiasm for the “engaging patients” frustrates me because we don’t all have (or have access to) the types of top tier doctors who are participating in this model. A patient can do all the self tracking she wants, but if the clinician won’t take the time (or care) to consider the data, what good is it? You can be engaged, empowered, compliant, etc. but it takes a whole system to be patient-centered, not just a patient with a tech gadget (or 10) who can clearly see and feel something is wrong.
I run into this wall constantly and it’s causing a sort of medical system fatigue/trauma, honestly. Why go to the doctor for “increased fatigue” (with self tracking for over 12 months to “prove” it) if the doctor will just dismiss it or simply do the n-th round of mono testing? Bouncing around the system, filling out intake forms, preparing reports and questions to cram into an 8 minute appointment, these things all take more time and energy (when I’m already seeking medical care because I feel crummy) than the providers seem able to give back to me.
Some have said that this buzz-worth type of patient engagement is really aimed at those patients who are not currently keeping track of their health to such an extreme, perhaps because their condition is mild or less critical.
From my perspective, having a life-long or long term chronic illness can be exhausting and a sort of fatigue sets in not only with friends and caregivers but with patients themselves. If the health care system is going to be adding roadblocks and friction, and you’re already broke, stressed, and exhausted, then there’s a good chance those patients will stop giving a damn about their own health (or give only a tiny damn). If you think “hmm, I have the energy to go out with friends, clean the house, or go to a medical appointment” if the appointment will be costly, make you feel frustrated because what matters to you doesn’t matter to your clinician, tired – because you’re constantly seeing doctors to deal with health issues (and side effects), and annoyed because the system is not patient-friendly… Well guess which of the three options I wouldn’t chose first.
I would love to see a shift toward better utilizing patient input – be it in the form of stories (give patients time to talk about their lives, goals, and symptoms) or data. Let’s get the health care system set up in a way that providers can talk with patients, not just at us. This should occur at centers of excellence, the small town doc, and all care facilities in between.