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Improving patient engagement is a subject that’s being talked about in hospital boardrooms across the country. It’s become the in-fashion political buzz phrase. Certainly sounds very well and good, but what exactly does it mean?
Likely different things to different people depending on what angle they approach it — all the way from a care assistant up to the hospital CEO. In a nutshell, it’s all about allowing the patient to take center stage in their health care and being fully informed and understanding each step of the way. It’s about education, encouraging healthy behaviors, improving health outcomes and lowering health care costs. The ideal state is to allow the patient to feel that they are in the driving seat and full participants in their own care.
As things currently stand, most health care systems across the world are way off from this place. It’s not just the health care that’s to blame either — because the biggest part of patient engagement involves the patient stepping up to the plate themselves. And there are some very real barriers to this including education, demographics, and motivation. There’s also the reality that most 90-year-old chronically unwell patients in hospital will have difficulty taking care of themselves. The issue is thus a complex one.
No one has a better understanding of where the opportunities for improvement lie than the doctors and nurses working at the coalface. We get to see all the problems up close and personal on a daily basis. I’m going to talk about how this pertains to my own specialty of hospital medicine, and where we have enormous room to engage patients better while they are in the hospital. Here are 5 areas to focus on:
There is no one magic formula for solving the issue of patient engagement in hospital medicine. It will require a multifaceted and multidisciplinary approach. Whichever arena we are in, it is vital for a number of reasons. Whether we are talking about raising the quality of health care, improving outcomes or lowering health care costs — there’s a great deal to play for. The more knowledge and opportunities to participate in their own health care, the better it is for both patients and doctors.
By Suneel Dhand, MD, for KevinMD.com