New ideas to help patients help themselves

One more reason for physicians to focus on patient engagement: the impact it has on managing chronic conditions. 

"The whole goal in conditions that are lifelong, and aren't going to go away, is to stabilize them and keep them as stable as possible for as long as possible," Edward Wagner, a researcher and founding director at Seattle-based Group Health Research Institute, told the Wall Street Journal. "Evidence is mounting that the more engaged and activated patients are in their own care, the better the outcomes." 

One strategy practices may consider is to find a patient who is already highly engaged and give that person the opportunity to exert positive peer pressure on his or her peers. This phenomenon may occur naturally within the dynamic of group medical appointments, but practices that don't use this format can adapt the strategy as well.

For example, the WSJ story relayed the story of Gail Rae-Garwood, who responded to her diagnosis of chronic kidney disease at age 60 by becoming educated about managing her condition and sharing that advice with others through a book and blog. Garwood took it upon herself to create this influence, but physicians that identify good disease-management role models could invite these patients to write blog articles to post on the practice website or become similarly involved.

The start of a new year is also an opportune time to leverage patients' resolutions to improve their health, according to an article from Medical Economics. To make the most of this window, however, educate patients about preventive care and provide them a mechanism in which to state and track their goals.

To learn more:
- read the article from the Wall Street Journal
- see the story from Medical Economics