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Activating patients: a health management goal
Posted on Apr 1, 2013 | Written by Glenn Leary | Comments (0)
In February, we discussed the critical role of an active participant in value-based care. Now, as “patient activation” continues to be of interest to the industry, it seems appropriate to discuss what that entails and how health management can help.
The February issue of Health Affairs focuses on patients’ activation in health systems. Defining patient activation as “the skills and confidence that equip patients to be actively involved in their health care,” Judith Hibbard, a senior researcher at the Health Policy Research Group, draws a correlation between activation and improved health results. Drawing evidence from a number of recent studies, Hibbard notes that “policies and interventions aimed at strengthening patients’ role in managing their health care can contribute to improved outcomes.”
Currently, the discussion around activation focuses heavily on resources, processes and infrastructure within health systems. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, advocates health literacy as the foundation for improving activation. In Koh’s view, the health care system has become “so complex that it challenges the comprehension even of sophisticated patients.” His answer is to change the focus of efforts from increasing patients’ information deficits to simplifying the information and the system itself.
Certainly, efforts to make the health care system more user-friendly would go far in enabling participants’ effective self-care. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the individual’s participation still plays a crucial role in the success of his or her own health care. In addition to the ease of taking informed actions, individuals need confidence and motivation to effectively manage their health.
This is where health management programs will continue to play a role.
Specializing in the complex anatomy of an individual’s behavior, specialty health coaching programs can integrate with providers and health systems as a component of the care team. With the efforts of groups such as the National eHealth Collaborative driving a standard for defining activation, health management programs can help to activate participants and integrate activation into the care process.
Do you see this as a realistic goal for post-reform care? Do you agree that health management can help drive outcomes within health systems?
Glenn is vice president of business development. He consults with health plans to design competitive health management solutions for their respective market. He brings more than 20 years of experience in the health industry, working in business development for health plans, incentives and pharmaceuticals.