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Physicians Must Make Patients Partners in Pursuit of Health

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 20, 2011

Patients are the fuel that makes hospitals run, and why they exist. Patients are also a headache for the C-suite.

That is certainly reflected in the HealthLeaders Media 2011 Industry Survey, in which leaders cite patient noncompliance and lack of responsibility as the fifth-greatest driver of healthcare costs at their organizations. A quarter of respondents cited patients as among the top three cost drivers, ahead of health plan overhead, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and malpractice litigation.

The lack of communication between patients and primary care physicians when a patient is discharged from the hospital, for instance, can compromise patient safety, and lead to a return visit to the ED or hospital.

Easing patients' concerns can improve Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and System scores.  

Hospitals are investing in programs to promote patient involvement in their own care, saying speed is crucial.  Strictly on a health basis, more young people are facing weight issues, and more young people are facing diabetes, while others confront chronic conditions that are adding to patient care issues as well as costs.

Industry stakeholders are also under pressure to adapt behaviors to improve outcomes and contain costs, and none is more integral to the process than patients, says Susan Frampton, president of the Planetree Institute, Derby, CT, a network of hospitals that support patient-centered care.

"Everyone is focusing on patient engagement because it's going to be necessary," says Frampton. "It's the only way we can execute on the concepts of Accountable Care Organizations, or other healthcare initiatives. You can't go very far on any of that without having an engaged, empowered patient. I think the irony is we are struggling to retrofit a system that was set up to disempower patients."

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1 comments on "Physicians Must Make Patients Partners in Pursuit of Health"


Michael Cylkowski (10/27/2011 at 3:43 PM)
Whoever solves the non-compliance problem may get the Nobel prize for economics. Why do we choose to do or not to do the most rational action? I think the dilemma is called 'cognitive dissonance'. We know what the right choice is but we choose to do differently. We often fail to account for the value of our choices. Who's to say that sitting on the patio with a cup of coffee and the WSJ in the early morning is less valuable to me than the benefit I might derive from a good workout? Too often we make one dimensional choices to satisfy our immediate needs. Not until you can get me to realize the value of thinking long-term do I get out of bed earlier and go for that run and then enjoy my coffee on the patio. Your article reminded me of Atul Gawande chastising us in the New Yorker about what did we expect, for so long we wanted patients to be obedient, deferential, and fearful of the doctor's ire and now we give them choices? And Barry Schwartz' book, "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less" is an excellent study on how we can get overwhelmed by having to choose. If you've ever had an elderly loved-one discharged from the hospital, you quickly learn to ask, "Mom, did you take your meds yet?" Remind them to do it now while you wait. The case workers, discharge planners, and home health providers tell me that non-compliance in meds is one of the biggest reasons for readmits and easiest to solve by other family members calling daily.