How to improve outcomes via patient activation

There's no lack of evidence that physicians can improve outcomes by 'activating' patients in their practice, according to a report by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

Findings from more than 140 studies show that activated individuals--those who have knowledge, skills and confidence in managing their own health and healthcare--are more likely to have positive health behaviors and better health outcomes, wrote Pamela Ballou-Nelson, R.N, senior consultant at the MGMA. That research shows that more activated patients as well as physicians with strong patient-centered communication skills generate lower costs, she said.

However, there is room for improvement. Less than half (41.4 percent) of American adults are at the highest level of activation, which indicates confidence to manage their health in proactive ways. The consequences can be significant, with less activated patients nearly twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days, as FierceHealthcare previously reported.

So how can physician practices activate patients? "Building confidence through experiential learning and small steps is the key strategy for increasing activation," said Ballou-Nelson. They can also take the following actions to help patients who are at the lowest level of activation:

  • Focus on one goal at a time, rather than giving the patient a long list of goals and actions
  • Focus on what is important to the patient
  • Stress the importance of patient participation
  • Show empathy to patients
  • Build on strengths
  • Focus on positive emotions
  • Develop problem-solving skills

If physicians want to make patients take ownership of their health, they need to make them part of the process, she said.

To learn more:
- read the MGMA article