Skip to main content

Meeting the Challenge of Patient Engagement

   August 26, 2015

Michael Schaffrinna, MD

"I like being in involved with Mission East Dallas because I know how it served me and I am happy to give back," says Jones. "The community needs that center for people like me. Without it, they're wandering around hopeless, trying to get somebody to help them."

FQHCs play an important role in caring for socioeconomically challenged and underserved populations. In 2013, the California Primary Care Association studied claims data from 134,797 adults who received Medi-Cal benefits. Researchers compared two groups of patients within that population: those who used a FQHC to receive healthcare and those who did not. The patients who used services at an FQHC had an 8.2% 30-day readmission rate while non-FQHC users had readmission rate of 13.1%. A non-FQHC patient was also more expensive, costing $656. Patients who were FQHC users cost $414.

Do these metrics point to a more engaged patient population? Yes, says Wiltraut. "It means we are managing care and seeking to be a medical home for individuals and families."

Mission East Dallas also is improving patient outcomes with key populations. For example, in 2012 the clinic was not screening adolescents for obesity; now the screening rate is at least 56%. Its rate of appropriate treatment for asthma increased from 60% in 2012 to 85% in 2013.

Patient engagement requires time and trust
Another organization trying to improve patient engagement through its culture is Yakima-based Community Health of Central Washington, a network of four medical clinics, one dental clinic, a family residency program, and providers who care for seniors in residential facilities as well as hospitalized pediatric patients. Each medical clinic is an FQHC and recognized as a patient-centered medical home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

"We have to engage everyone on our staff—nursing, providers, front desk, reception, medical assistants—to look for opportunities where we can improve the interaction with our patients," says Michael Schaffrinna, MD, chief medical officer of CHCW. "The patient engagement challenge is about time. Healthcare teams need enough time to focus on patients and their needs in order to have credibility. It has been shown that when patients know you care, they are more likely to follow care plans."

Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

Tagged Under:

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.