How 'high-touch' programs augment technology to improve patient engagement

Allina Health, a not-for-profit healthcare system serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin, is working to improve patient care with two "high-touch" programs in addition to technology, according to a Health Affairs Blog post.

In the first program, Allina hired 12 lay healthcare workers called care guides--people without formal medical training--to help with patient education; communication among patients, families and the care team; identifying barriers to high-quality care; and to facilitate referrals.

In one case, a man who'd had a heart attack told his care guide he was not attending the cardiac rehabilitation program because he wasn't sure his insurance would cover it and he didn't have transportation. The care guide verified with the insurance company that it was covered and found the man a bus route for the short trip.

Allina Health has found patients with a care guide were 31 percent more likely to meet care goals than usual care patients, and 21 percent more likely to stop smoking. Those patients also reported a significantly more positive perceptions of their care.

The other program, called LifeCourse, uses the care guide model to help adults living with advanced illness in the last two to three years of life. Those guides visit patients in their homes, assisted-living apartments, or nursing homes, and focus on what matters most to the patient, recording those things, both medical and nonmedical, in the EHR.

The program has resulted in a slower decline in quality of life--and improvement in some cases; improved patient and caregiver experiences as compared with controls; and a reduction in total cost of care, coupled with increases in use of hospice and inpatient palliative care.

Three lessons from these programs include:

  1. Create a unified definition and vision of patient engagement, with improving the patient experience as a first step
  2. Get buy-in and adoption of new types of roles in healthcare
  3. Blend technology solutions with high-touch relationships

The Next Generation Accountable Care Organization must be able to improve patient experience as well as outcomes, 12 consumer advocacy groups recently said in a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

To learn more:
- read the blog post