Boost patient activation to lower costs

Patients who have more knowledge, skills and confidence in managing their medical care have better outcomes and fewer healthcare costs, concludes a new Health Affairs study.

Researchers examined more than 33,000 patients at Fairview Health Services in Minnesota and found that patients who did not take an active role in their healthcare cost 8 percent to 21 percent more than patients with high activation levels.

The study authors also found that activated patients are more likely to engage in healthy behavior and use health information, compared to less activated patients.

Moreover, patient activation levels predicted overall care costs, even after adjusting for illness severity, age, sex and income, according to the University of Oregon research announcement.

The findings suggest strategies to increase patient activation, such as tailored coaching, can help hospitals control costs, especially as healthcare reform measures tout self-management for delivering low-cost, high-quality care.

To increase patient activation, providers must know patients' ability and willingness to manage their health. For example, providers may need to direct more outreach to patients who have a heavy disease burden but lack self-management skills and confidence than to patients who have the same disease burden but have a greater ability to manage their condition, the study noted.

Reinforcing the importance of patient activation measures (PAM), studies have shown that activated patients are less likely to choose surgical interventions and are more likely to have better functional status and satisfaction and report higher medication adherence rates, Kent Bottles, senior fellow at the Thomas Jefferson University School of Population Health and FierceHealthcare advisory board member, wrote in Hospital Impact last week.

For more:
- here's the study abstract
- check out the research announcement