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Increasing Patient Activation in Healthcare

Over the last several years, healthcare organizations have faced complex challenges around improving the quality of care, reducing costs, and meeting patients’ unique needs and preferences. Experts have identified patient activation, a measure of an individual’s understanding, competence, and willingness to participate in their own personal care decisions, as a critical component of good health outcomes.

As we look back and evaluate the impacts of 2020 on today’s healthcare landscape, patient activation has never been more important. The pandemic created challenges that ranged from severe revenue losses for health systems to a reduction of preventative health screenings.

2020 marked a 25% reduction in total cancer screenings alone, causing potentially serious consequences due to missed cancer diagnoses. As an example, if a colorectal cancer patient delays care by 150 days, it significantly reduces that patient’s survival rate. The reduction in screenings, care, and overall patient health is striking. In 2020, 32% of women diagnosed with breast cancer delayed care. More than half of primary providers surveyed last fall reported that their patients’ health was worse from care that had been delayed, or was inaccessible due to the pandemic, while 85% reported worse mental health among patients.

These problems worsened as health systems lost millions in 2020. The American Hospital Association has estimated that hospitals and health systems in the U.S. lost $202.6 billion between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020 alone. The cancellation of elective surgeries and other non-critical care visits during the height of COVID-19 has contributed to this decrease in revenue. To make matters worse, recent surges in COVID-19 rates have resulted in more costly hospitalizations with fewer, more profitable non-critical visits and surgeries for health systems.

Many individuals are still reluctant to seek medical care or schedule preventative health screenings. Recent surges in COVID rates have further delayed elective services and patients are showing up later rather than sooner with symptoms of chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes. To reverse these trends and improve health outcomes, healthcare organizations must step up their efforts to engage with at-risk patients, improve patient experiences, and reduce costs. Patient activation is the key to unlock the solution to these challenges.

What is patient activation in healthcare?

While patient activation falls under the umbrella of health engagement, patient activation is focused specifically on motivating patients to take independent action when it comes to their health care. Early research identified the need to create interventions that supported patient activation, including building skills and confidence in an individual’s ability to manage their own health. Data from multiple studies shows consistently that patients who are more involved in their own health have better health outcomes and lower costs.

Why is patient activation important?

When patients are not currently engaged with their health systems, they fail to schedule routine screenings and physicals. They may not follow up on their care after a diagnosis, or they may not seek treatment for problems that might require emergency care. Simply put, a non-activated patient is not seeking preventative care or follow-up treatment for health problems.

Activated patients proactively seek care that keeps them healthy, and consistently take steps to become healthier when a problem arises. An activated patient population has been shown to significantly reduce costs while increasing wellness at the same time. For patients, staying healthier reduces their personal costs of healthcare over time. For health systems, patients who are engaged are proactively seeking important preventative health screenings, and better managing chronic conditions. A higher measure of patient activation lowers the costs of healthcare and raises health outcomes.

How do you measure patient activation?

One way for health systems to measure patient activation is through the Patient Activation Measure (PAM) which involves assessing four levels of activation:

  • Level One: Having the belief that activation is important
  • Level Two: Possessing the confidence and knowledge necessary to act
  • Level Three: Proactively taking action to improve and maintain health
  • Level Four: Continuing to be activated under stressful circumstances

The Measure includes 13 (the PAM short form) or 22 (long form) survey questions that assess the patient’s current activation state within each level. Based on that assessment, steps are taken to improve engagement and eventually, the patient’s health outcome. Health systems also use PAM to measure activation before and after major interventions within a patient population, such as vaccination campaigns or other preventative initiatives.

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Avtex strategies to improve patient activation

Patient engagement strategies can increase patient activation in many ways, from motivating patients to get a flu shot, to scheduling a colonoscopy screening. While patient engagement is focused on desired specific actions, increasing patient activation requires a change in attitude and a desire to become more knowledgeable and self-directed when it comes to managing the health of an individual and their family.

Patient activation is a universal message that motivates patients to become more involved in their healthcare. Increasing patient activation requires a personalized approach that incorporates the needs and preferences of individuals and their specific health profiles and diagnoses.

The Avtex Patient Activation Program enables health systems and payer organizations to quickly deploy solutions that support improved management of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, breast, and colon cancer.

The Patient Activation Program methodology involves three powerful steps:

  • Step One – We work with our healthcare client to identify the patient segment you wish to activate, and/or the segment where patient activation will drive the highest return.
  • Step Two - The Avtex CX Consulting team seeks to understand how those patients are being engaged today, creates a journey of the current state, and a strategy to achieve the desired future state of patient activation.
  • Step Three - Avtex leverages CRM and marketing technologies to connect to your EMR (Electronic Medical System). Patient information is gathered for targeting purposes and to create personalized, impactful engagement campaigns to reach your patient activation goals.

Healthcare organizations who engage with Avtex to improve patient activation typically experience improved engagement and health outcomes, deeper patient insights, and useful reports on key metrics and recommended improvements for patient activation.

The Patient Activation Program drives patient activation by identifying and creating omnichannel communication strategies that result in greatly improving the patient experience, strengthening loyalty, and significantly reducing costs. Learn more about The Avtex Patient Activation program here.

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