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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

It can be a `game changer’: Higher patient involvement, lower patient costs

Your efforts to lower patient medical costs can feel like a losing game. Now comes some new advice from a study in Health Affairs : Get patients to take an active role in their healthcare. In this study of about 33,000 patients, average healthcare costs were 8-21% lower for patients with the highest motivation, knowledge, skills, and confidence to manage their healthcare.


"We found that patients who were more knowledgeable, skilled, and confident about managing their day-to-day health and healthcare -- also called patient activation -- had healthcare costs that were substantially lower than patients who lacked this type of confidence and skill," said study author Judith Hibbard, lead author, in a press release.

The study compared apples to apples: Among patients with the same kind of chronic illness, those who were more involved had lower healthcare costs than those who were less involved.

What does this mean for you? Look at assessing how much your patients are involved and motivated, the authors say. Support patients who want to be more involved, they say. The end result is better patient health and lower costs, they say.

The American Hospital Association is offering its help. A new report from its Committee on Research looks at strategies for engaging healthcare consumers to achieve a “Triple Aim”: improve population health and the individual care experience, and reduce or control per capita healthcare costs. Look to this report for a framework of what to do as well as case studies of how hospitals and others are engaging patients.

For example, Emory Healthcare in Atlanta started a patient- and family-centered care transformation model. Nurses created guidelines for items they should discuss at bedside during shift changes. This step allows patients and families to share information and set priorities. The program was started in the ICU, and patient satisfaction improved so much that the change was made in all acute care areas at four Emory hospitals. Patient and family advisors trained all front-line clinical staff. Patient satisfaction scores with nurses increased dramatically: from the 41st percentile to the 78th percentile. Hospital-acquired pressure ulcers dropped from 8.15% to 2.5%, and patient falls de­creased from 3.24 to 2.85 per 1,000 patient days.

“Engaging patients, families and communities has the potential to be a ‘game changer’ in the transformation of the health care system in the United States,” the AHA report states. “Hospitals and health care systems can serve as laboratories for developing, testing, learning, and disseminating new engagement practices.”

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also offers tips for how patients can be more engaged in their healthcare.

Sounds like a winning combination: Free help for you, lower patient costs, and happier patients. Game on!