The biggest barrier to improving patient engagement—time

Doctor with patient
Reimbursing physicians for the added time and effort required to improve patient engagement should be a top priority when designing care delivery systems, according to an NEJM Catalyst study.

Better patient engagement takes time and effort on the part of physicians and staff—and a new report suggests most organizations don't account for that when they design programs. 

Almost two-thirds of those surveyed about patient engagement programs by NEJM Catalyst point to a lack of reimbursement for the extra time required by health teams as the primary challenge confronting designers. Over half of 555 responses also cited difficulties getting patients and providers to adopt such care delivery programs, according to a blog post in NEJM Catalyst.

Patient engagement programs typically ask physicians to change their clinical workflow, and that ultimately requires some form of incentive, according to Bertrand Ross, M.D., medical director of Optima Health, a Virginia-based health plan. In his view, that ultimately boils down to a reimbursement issue. “The time and effort to educate, motivate, and troubleshoot issues regarding patient engagement are not recompensed very well at present,” he told the publication.

The vast majority of survey respondents tabbed patients as the most important participant in program design, followed by care teams and physicians. It may seem obvious that patient engagement requires a patient’s perspective, but getting providers to engage in a program is equally as important as getting patients to buy into it, Kathryn Duevel, M.D., medical director of quality and innovation at ACMC Health, a multispecialty health network with 100 physicians in Minnesota, told the publication. 

She pointed out that doctors already feel pressed for time due to overwork, increased administrative burdens and other similar issues that contribute to widespread burnout.