Patient activation is key to digital health futures

When it comes to supporting and changing health care behaviors, simply providing patients with information is not enough. In fact, the patient brochure has seemingly gone the way of the dodo in today’s digital universe. And as misinformation, rapid internet searches, and questionable home therapies replace proven medical guidance, there is a growing gap between knowledge and intention. In today’s healthcare ecosystem, it’s vital to embrace new technologies to motivate patients to become active and informed participants in their own care.

Communication channels
Health related behaviors are significant predictors of health outcomes, and often what happens at home is more important than what happens in a physician’s office. Even when patients know about healthy lifestyles and better choices, most patients choose what is familiar. Bringing information to the home offers a greater opportunity to influence and support positive health choices.

For example, around 20% of patients do not take their medication as prescribed, despite knowing its important. The burden of chronic disease is rising in aging societies. The use of digital health creates a communication channel between patients and their care team that extends beyond the limited office visit. This means that patients can receive support and engagement continuously to drive medication adherence. And built-in monitoring and feedback loops provide insight and awareness that patients are unlikely to offer up.

Risk Factors
Driving patient activation means presenting information to patients that is tangible and accessible. In many instances, physicians say this requires presenting health risks that make sense to patients. Information must be personalized and quantified in ways and measurements that have meaning to the individual. Using percentages or heavily nuanced data is unlikely to breakthrough to patients to support a lasting change.

Giving a patient a 17% risk of cardiovascular disease is unlikely to motivate them to make a change in their health or support medication adherence. However, telling a 30-year-old patient that they have the heart of a 70-year-old is much more digestible and impactful toward communicating the risks. And new models can help to educate patients on the risk progression, showing patients how health issues may arise based on their personal health factors.

Meeting Patients Where They Are
Educating patients during clinical visits is not enough on its own. The new digital healthcare ecosystem offers a greater opportunity to continually educate and engage patients in their health and create a communication loop toward better outcomes. New digital health solutions are showing great promise toward stronger patient activation by delivering resources in formats where patients already are. Through smartphone applications and desktop widgets, patients can access real-time information about their health, condition progression, and medication journey – giving them tangible insights about how they are improving their health.

By connecting patient care with digital tools, providers and health systems are meeting patients where they are, at times and in formats that are most familiar to them. New telemonitoring tools also provide patients with automated and personalized reminders, connect to lifestyle coaching, and create access points to support groups and other resources. This level of engagement creates empowerment for patients to take an active role and better manage their health.

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