Imagine you are one of the 1.1 million people about to have a joint replacement this year. Your doctor gave you information during your pre-op visit but you were so busy worrying about your recovery and how you would manage your daily responsibilities, that you missed a lot of the details. Your husband took some notes but he was also overwhelmed at the thought of you being off your feet for 6 weeks. You’ve been doing the best you can with what you remember of your care instructions and you’re hoping for a successful outcome.
Now imagine, instead, that you started to receive care instructions and check-ins from your surgeon after that first pre-op visit. The information helped you remember what your doctor said, reminded you what you need to know at every point in this process (which can be more than six months from pre-op through recovery) and eased your anxiety.
That level of engagement is known as patient activation – the act of energizing a person to manage his or her own health and healthcare with knowledge, skills and confidence. Patient activation is associated with better post-surgical outcomes, including a 40% decrease in 30-day readmissions and 21% lower care costs in the year after surgery.
Hospitals are making that impact even stronger by employing what is referred to as direct patient activation – motivating patients with regular, targeted mobile connections delivered through push messaging.
The Theory Behind Direct Patient Activation
First and foremost, direct patient activation recognizes that patients must be motivated in order to absorb the education they need to become engaged partners in their care and be satisfied with their experience and outcomes.
The power of direct patient activation is in how hospitals connect with and motivate patients.
For example, do your patient-provider connections:
- happen consistently throughout a patient’s care journey?
- happen at key, targeted points when patients have questions or fears?
- reach patients outside the hospital, where it’s harder to ask questions or access help?
- reach patients proactively (making life easier for them) and automatically (making care management easier for you)?
Thinking back to the story of the patient preparing for joint replacement, direct patient activation makes self-care accessible, understandable and manageable.
Empowering Patients and Providers Throughout the Care Episode
Direct patient activation uses technology to fill in gaps in care, empowering patients and, in doing so, allowing providers to own the whole episode of care like never before. When patients are educated and engaged, they’ll have better outcomes and be more satisfied.
Also important, direct patient activation helps health systems meet the regulatory requirements of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), thereby maximizing financial rewards and minimizing penalties. We’ll look further into these regulations, as well as the quality improvement and cost containment potential of direct patient activation, in future posts.