One of the cornerstones of remote patient management (RPM) is its power to boost patient engagement by giving people not just the means but also the incentive to take a greater stake in improving their own health.
And improving patient engagement is widely seen as a means to enhance the quality of patient care in America — which, along with improving the health of patient populations and reducing costs, is a cornerstone of the “Triple Aim of Healthcare.” (Read more about how telehealth can help achieve the "triple aim" here.)
How does improved patient engagement lead to better quality of care? The short answer: It’s a critical factor in helping people achieve and sustain positive behavior change. Indeed, many experts attribute the lack of a focus on behavior change as the prime cause of America’s exorbitant healthcare costs and widespread inefficiencies, tied directly to such important factors as:
- Diet and exercise
- Medication adherence
- Consumption of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
In a 2012 analysis of U.S. healthcare costs, McKinsey & Company concluded that 31% of those costs “could be directly attributed to behaviorally influenced chronic conditions,” with 69% of the costs “heavily influenced by consumer behaviors.” Failure to realize medication adherence “alone costs the United States more than $100 billion annually in avoidable healthcare spending,” the authors add.
All of which emphasizes the importance of motivating individuals to take a greater ownership in their health. The industry’s leading RPM programs (such as the Care Innovations® Health Harmony platform) are centered on that goal, leveraging important insights gained from behavioral psychology to empower patients to take ownership over their health in a number of ways:
- The use of consumer-friendly devices and peripherals similar to commonly used smartphones and tablets, which makes at-home self-care not only easier but constantly accessible.
- Interactive education and apps deliver high-quality information instantaneously, providing insightful (and encouraging) feedback.
- Videoconferencing and instant communications tools offer constant contact between patients and clinicians, removing the uncertainty (and sometimes frustration) of waiting for professional confirmation.
For all these elements to work together, engagement must be a focus not just for patients but also for the clinicians who work with them. To that end, Health Harmony includes a training course to help educate nurses about the challenges associated with patient engagement, identifying areas for professional improvement as well as defining how technology can be leveraged to support these efforts.
“A significant amount of healthcare utilization in the U.S. is largely preventable or remediable through health behavior change,” as Care Innovations Senior Director of Research and Compliance Maureen Glynn stated in a news release. “We’re helping nurses learn how to make subtle shifts in their behaviors so patients will shift theirs.”
4 Steps to Engaging Patients with a Remote Patient Management Program
As powerful a tool as RPM is for engaging patients with their own health, engaging them with the program itself must come first. “Getting patients engaged and willing to manage their health is a key part of RPM success,” as Care Innovations Director of Operations Barbara Fullmer explains in a video from the Care Innovations RPM Academy. “To get somebody to enroll, you really have to explore with them.”
In that video, our telehealth experts outline four key considerations when engaging patients with a new RPM program:
- Address the challenges and fears that patients may have about the technology, program, and clinical oversight.
- Customize the program to specifically meet patients’ unique goals and lifestyles.
- Ensure that the technology is appropriate for each individual patient.
- Work to also engage family members and caregivers in a way that best supports the patient.
Our experts go on to explain these four key steps in greater detail:
1. “What are the barriers, in their own head, their own cognition?” asks Maureen in the video, addressing the need to confront the patients’ fears and challenges. “The truth is that people are often afraid. They're afraid of change. They're afraid of what happens if their nurse sees that they're not doing the things they're supposed to do, which closer monitoring can uncover.”
And, she adds, “sometimes people are afraid just of the technology, the idea that it's intimidating. Really, to get somebody enrolled, you've got to address upfront the things they're afraid of."
2. Addressing these fears leads directly to the importance of customizing the program to meet a patient’s specific goals. “Break it down in terms that they can understand, or in goals that they can achieve and want to achieve,” as Barbara explains.
“For example, if it's a post-discharge program, we want to help Mr. Jones stay out of the hospital so that he can go to his daughter's wedding. We want to help Mrs. Jones have a successful liver transplant because we know she wants to be around for her grandchildren.”
3. Once fears and goals have been taken into account, a remote patient management program’s technology and design should take into account “any lingering concerns,” says Barbara.
And that means there’s a real need for “the program design and the technology choices” to be “supportive of whatever concerns [the patients] may have” at any point, “so that they can embrace the program wholeheartedly and get all the benefits that are waiting for them,” she points out.
4. And finally, engagement efforts should include everyone in the patient’s immediate orbit, especially their immediate family members and caregivers. “It's very important to work with everybody who is caregiving — a formal caregiver, a spouse, or a family member, or a neighbor, because sometimes they'll be intimidated, too," Maureen explains.
Perhaps needless to say, an efficient way of ensuring that all these considerations are successfully met is utilizing an RPM platform that has them already built in. Health Harmony, for instance, is designed around meeting these goals, with a clear understanding of the importance of making engagement easy, intuitive, and even fun for patients.
For more information on how to ensure your RPM program is taking all the right steps in engaging patients, we encourage you to contact us here to schedule a complimentary consultation with a Care Innovations telehealth specialist.