The Future Of…Patient Engagement

Posted on March 19, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival which explores “The Future of…” across 5 different healthcare IT topics.

Healthcare has a major challenge when it comes to the term “Patient Engagement.” $36 billion of government money and something called meaningful use has corrupted the word Patient Engagement. While meaningful use requires “5% patient engagement”, that’s a far cry from actually engaging with patients. Anyone that’s attested to meaningful use knows what I mean.

As we move past meaningful use, what then will patient engagement actually look like?

When I start to think about the future of patient engagement, I’m taken back to my experience with a new primary care provider that’s trying to Restore Humanity to Healthcare (see Restore Humanity to Healthcare part 2 as well). In this case, I’m exploring the idea of unlimited primary care along with a primary care team that includes a doctor, but also includes a wellness coordinator that’s interested in my wellness and not just my presenting problem.

Once you take the payment portion out of primary care, it dramatically changes the equation for me. Gone are the fears of going to the doctor because you don’t want to pay the co-pay. Gone are the days where a doctor needs to see you in the office in order to be able to make money from the visit. With unlimited primary care, an email, phone call or text message that solves the problem is a great solution for the doctor and the patient.

Of course, this model of primary care is only one example of the shift that’s going to drive us to patient engagement. ACOs and value based care models are going to require a much deeper relationship between doctors and patients. Trust me that 5% patient engagement through an online portal isn’t going to be enough in these new models.

Plus, these new models are going to really convert our current sick care system into a true healthcare system. I like to call this new model “Treating Healthy Patients.” Quite frankly we’re not ready for this change right now, but in the future we’ll have to adapt. The biggest change is going to be in how we define “patient” and “healthy.”

The wave of connected medical devices and innovation are going to completely reframe how we look at health. Instead of describing ourselves as healthy, the data will tell us that we’re all sick. We’re just at different points in the continuum of sickness.

In the future, patient engagement will be the key to treating each of us individually. The symptoms will change from coughing and vomiting to 85% risk for diabetes and 76% risk for a heart attack. We thought we had patient compliance issues when someone is coughing and vomiting (ie. something they want to fix). Now imagine patient compliance challenges when the patient isn’t feeling any pain, but they need to change something in order to avoid some major health problem.

I think this describes perfectly why we’re entering one of the most challenging times in healthcare. It’s a dramatic shift in how we think about healthcare and has a new set of more challenging problems that we’ve never solved. One of the keys to solving these new challenges is patient engagement.