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Educate patients to reduce the cost of care

Posted by Debra Zalvan on May 23, 2019 2:00:00 PM
Debra Zalvan
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The healthcare industry is challenged to reduce costs while still providing quality care. Something needs to shift—but who bears the responsibility for making the change?

The New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst Insights Council recently surveyed its members to address the question: How responsible are patients for reducing costs?

Survey results show that Council members believe that responsibility for lowering the cost of care is shared across stakeholders. Hospitals/health systems (chosen by 95% of respondents) and clinicians (94%) top the list for responsibility, with government (88%) and patients (83%) close behind.

The results also show that industry practitioners believe that patients lack the education they need to be effective participants in managing the cost of their care:

  • 61% indicated that patients don’t have enough information to affect the cost of their own healthcare-related decisions.
  • 78% said that assessing the total cost of care is extremely challenging for patients. 

What does this mean for the healthcare industry? To move the needle on containing costs, hospitals and other healthcare providers need to educate and engage their secret weapon—the patient.

The decisions that patients make have a wider ranging impact than many realize. Delaying care and receiving more urgent care later on as a result drives up not just the cost of the care episode, but also out-of-pocket deductibles and other insurance costs.

In an analysis of the survey findings, the Council noted that information the patient needs to make better health decisions will likely have more impact if delivered by the provider, who can help steer patients to efficient care. But while giving that guidance during office visits is helpful, it’s not enough. Research shows that patients forget up to 80% of what they hear during an appointment.

What’s the key to cutting healthcare costs for hospitals, insurers, and patients?

Digital connections can provide a bridge between the doctor’s office and a patient’s daily life. By engaging patients throughout their care continuum with relevant education, hospitals can help patients make informed choices about their own care and balance their health with their many other priorities.

The survey suggests that healthcare is a collaborative effort, with health systems, clinicians and patients all influencing cost. Digital education throughout the care episode gives the ongoing support needed to keep patients on track and connected with their hospital and care teams—and helps them make good decisions that lead to reduced costs and positive outcomes.



Topics: Improving Patient Outcomes, Patient Engagement, Patient Experience, patient activation