Physicians are focused on providing the best quality care supported by advanced technologies and innovative treatments. Medical transcription outsourcing allows clinicians to manage their EHR documentation tasks as they concentrate on their core activities. However, for their efforts to succeed, physicians need to partner with patients and encourage them to actively engage in their own healthcare. Today, patients have access to information, medical knowledge and their own health records. Building a successful doctor-patient partnership is crucial for achieving the best possible care outcomes.
Partnering with patients is about ‘patient activation’ which is different from ‘patient engagement’. “Patient activation emphasizes patients’ willingness and ability to take independent actions to manage their health and care,” according to Judith Hibbard, one of the first experts to define patient activation (www.patientengagementhit.com). This definition goes beyond ‘compliance’ which means getting patients to follow advice.
Patient activation means implementing strategies to encourage patients to become partners in their own care. Patients need to understand their role in the care process and get access to reliable healthcare information and digital health technology so that they have the knowledge and skills to make informed care decisions. Let’s take a look at some expert tips on building patient partnership:
- Providing Patients with Information about their Health: Patients should be made aware about their health conditions, treatments, and other health issues. They can be given educational material such as patient summaries, discharge instructions or written materials on new medications. In a 2018 study, researchers sent hypertension patients with low activation levels customized educational material about their conditions and potential treatment options. The material, in the form of a letter, identified the patient’s BP goal and provided suggestions to help them achieve it. The letter encouraged patients to initiate discussions with their healthcare provider about treatment options. The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that such clinician-led patient education can drive activation levels.
- Providing Health Information in Engaging and Accessible Formats: Patients should be provided with health information and explanations about care in simple language. All material need to be reviewed and simplified to ensure that the patient understands it. Information can be provided in formats such as print, mobile, apps and online channels. A Becker’s Hospital Review article recommends: “keeping materials simple enough for a sixth grader to comprehend and follow, healthcare professionals position themselves and their patients for success rather than failure”.
- Understanding and Documenting Individual Needs, Preferences and Goals: Partnering with patients to improve their care also means providing clear and useful information to patients, helping patients set goals, and develop strategies to maintain a healthier lifestyle. It is important to keep in mind that people expect their own needs, lifestyle preferences and desires to be considered in the care planning process. In person-centered care, the individual’s goals and preferences are taken into account when building the plan of care. The provider should document goals and interventions in discussion with the individual or their family. Patient engagement in setting goals has been found to impact their participation in and adherence to treatment as well as improve their health outcomes and quality of life. Patients should also be educated to support self-management.
- Encouraging Patient Question Asking: Patients should feel comfortable to ask questions about their health and related concerns. They need to know that asking questions is acceptable, and that their questions will be heard. Providers need to be ready to provide satisfactory answers on topics important to the patient. Encouraging patient question asking will make patients feel they are actively involved in any decisions that are being made about their care.
- Developing Programs to Encourage Adherence to Treatment: Adherence to treatment protocols, including medications and wellness plans is crucial for interventions to be effective. Making patients partners in their care calls for addressing barriers. Healthcare professionals need to first identify the barriers that prevent adherence and then leverage patient-centered strategies to overcome those barriers. Good adherence improves the effectiveness of interventions, leads to fewer hospitalizations and readmissions, and reduces the costs of care.
Building effective partnerships with patients and their caregivers/families takes time and commitment. Adopting advanced digital technologies and tools such as decision aids, appointment and medication reminders, automated appointment and follow-up scheduling calls can improve patient engagement. Patients can now view their medical records online. Viewing the notes can remind patients about what was discussed with their physicians during a visit and promote involvement and adherence. Providers can rely on medical transcription services to ensure complete, up-to-date and accurate medical records which can make all the difference to the quality and continuity of care.