To cut costs and improve outcomes, increase patient activation

Increased levels of patient engagement through patient activation improve outcomes as well as lower healthcare costs, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Researchers, led by Jessica Greene of George Washington University's School of Nursing, analyzed patient activation levels for more than 32,000 adult patients at Minnesota's Fairview Health Services under the Patient Activation Measure, a "metric used to quantify a person's knowledge, skills and confidence in managing one's own health and healthcare" on a scale of one to four. Over the two-year study period, they found patients with higher levels of activation demonstrated nine out of 13 improved healthcare outcomes. Comparatively, lower activation levels were associated with significantly reduced chances of positive outcomes for seven of 13 measures compared to patients who remained at level four (the highest activation level).

Greene and her team found activation had similar effects on billed costs. Patients with the highest levels of activation over the study period had projected costs 31 percent lower than those at the lowest activation levels, according to the study. Similarly, costs increased or decreased as patients' activation levels changed, with costs 14 percent higher for patients whose activation level fell from four to three over a year than those who remained at level four, and those whose level fell from three or four to one or two facing projected costs 27 percent higher than those who remained in level four both years of the study period.

The study backs up existing research that finds increased activation cuts costs as well as reduces preventable readmissions, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

"For accountable care organizations and other delivery systems looking to reduce costs and improve the health of those they care for, this study suggests that patient activation can be a critical pathway to achieving these goals," Judith Hibbard, Dr.PH., professor emerita and senior researcher for the Health Policy Research Group at the University of Oregon and developer of the Patient Activation Measure, said in a statement. "The greater the activation level, the greater the odds of better outcomes and lower costs," she added.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the statement