For too long, hospital leaders say, patients have not been empowered to feel they can be more responsible for their own health. “We are trying to engage patients in their own care. It is important for patients to have access to their comprehensive health information in any setting, be it an exam room, an emergency room, or their own home,” says Michael Kanter, MD, regional medical director of quality and clinical analysis for the Southern California Permanente Medical Group in Pasadena, CA, which serves members of Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California region.
Now, healthcare leaders are trying to catch up with the idea that patients have a responsibility to take care of their own health, and that providers have a role in initiating electronic systems and other approaches to help patients become partners in their care.
Peter Pronovost, MD, senior vice president at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality in Baltimore, says health systems will be confronted with patients increasingly saddled with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or cardiac issues. In the process, the health systems will be put in a position to provide incentives or penalties, which some corporations have begun implementing, to improve care.
For providers, who increasingly will find monetary rewards or losses tied to quality, patient empowerment is becoming critical, he adds. Health systems have a ways to go, in Pronovost’s view. For instance, the education that most patients receive in hospitals is “completely inadequate,” he says. “More and more, the private sector is working on educational tools for patients. I’m a scientist, but I believe deep down the story is at least as powerful as the data. Hospitals need to ask: How was your experience? How can we make it better?”
Recognizing that patients and families can help to improve individual patient safety, for instance, Johns Hopkins has produced a video to encourage patient involvement in care, and is working on making videos with patients themselves to elaborate on their stories and needs, Pronovost says. “We don’t just have doctors and nurses agreeing on goals; we ask patients for goals,” he says. The hospital wants to “ensure patients understand how to manage their disease.”