Payoffs of putting the patient in charge

By Erin McCann
02:26 PM

If improving patients' health matters, and your organization's bottom line is top of mind, then the notion of patient engagement should catch your attention.

It’s a hot topic in today's world, as more and more clinical evidence underscoring the benefits of patient engagement catches the industry spotlight.

Chanin Wendling, director of the eHealth Department at Geisinger Health System, who will be leading a session on digital patient engagement on Tuesday, Feb. 25, from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in room 224A of the Orange County Convention Center at HIMSS14, said the numbers do the talking.

One of the most recent studies, for example, conducted by researchers at the University of Oregon, examined health engagement data on some 30,000 patients across 40 Minnesota-based primary care clinics. What they found was that those patients shown to have the lowest patient engagement levels cost from 8 percent to 21 percent more than the patients who were actively engaged in their health.

"I can sit with a patient as a provider and tell them they need to stop smoking and that all of their health issues stem from the fact that they’re smoking, but I can't actually stop the smoking for the patients themselves," said Wendling. "I can get them counseling; I can send them to the appropriate resources, but the patient actually has to take steps themselves to be involved in their healthcare."

Wendling will also share some of the innovative ways Geisinger, a health system serving nearly 3 million people across Pennsylvania, has worked to spur digital patient engagement. We're talking utilizing text messaging, portals, iPads and touch screens to connect patients to their care.

"Unfortunately, providers have very little time with patients," added Wendling. So, "if you can get the patient to be actively involved in managing their conditions, life is better both from the patient health outcomes perspective as well as the cost to the system."