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Engaged Patients Cost Less

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, April 17, 2013

There are also the varying levels of health literacy to consider. I had to ask the RN on the phone to clarify a few things for me, including the scientific name of the antiseptic, which she had spat out as if it were a common item for the everyday person. Had I not felt empowered to ask, I would not have understood or followed that particular instruction.

Spacey, disinterested, and low-health literate patients are out there, in abundance. Some patients do the best they can and still fall short. Others simply 'go with the flow,' essentially relinquishing responsibility for their care to others.

Improving communication with these types of patients is something healthcare marketers should focus on. And it's more than just good medicine—it can improve costs.

A study in the February issue of Health Affairs looked at the role that patients play in determining health-related outcomes. Researchers found that patients who were more knowledgeable, skilled, and confident about managing their day-to-day health had healthcare costs that were 8% lower in the base year and 21% lower in the next year compared to patients who lacked this type of confidence and skill.

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These savings held true even after adjusting for patient differences, such as demographic factors and the severity of illnesses.

Furthermore, engaged patients with the same chronic illness had lower healthcare costs than their less-engaged counterparts; less-engaged asthma patients had 21% higher costs than the most engaged patients. With high blood pressure, the cost differential was 14%.

"There is ample evidence that the behaviors people engage in and the health care choices they make have a very clear effect on both health and costs, positively and negatively," the study authors wrote.

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2 comments on "Engaged Patients Cost Less"


Joe Bigley (4/23/2013 at 11:54 AM)
@Patricia - I completely with your suggestion to include a "customer service" function in healthcare. It would engage patients more fully resulting in higher customer acquisitions, improve outcomes by more fully engaging them in their own care, raise patient satisfaction levels and likely reduce re-admissions. I was lead into the healthcare space having originally developed a video chat application for online customer service. Working with the Dir of Telehealth at Univ of Illinois at Chicago's Med School, we incorporated best practices from online customer service and over the course of about 12 months customized the application to include additional functionality specific to healthcare. It's now installed at a major healthcare system in Utah where it was originally piloted for 6 months to deliver evisits as an employee benefit. The results were so impressive that it's now been rolled out to all 25,000 employees with plans to extend the service to their patient population as well. In an industry where there is such competition for the new patients(AKA customers)it just makes sense that better customer service would yield more and better satisfied customers.

Patricia (4/17/2013 at 4:30 PM)
Marketers, really? Let's think again about those with best skill set to really improve patient experience. How about customer service/customer experience professionals? They're not marketers, and I don't know one hospital that has that job title in its HR database. Note to hospitals: hire these people from luxury hotels or spas, pros who know how to treat a customer right. Or from Zappo's or Amazon, pros who know how to cajole me into doing what they want. IMHO, healthcare background has almost nothing to offer me in terms of customer/patient experience except for those with innate skills.