Tag Archives: patient activation

The Adopt One! Challenge – The First Step To Better Patient Engagement & Patient Experiences

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Or in the case of the Adopt One! Challenge…by encouraging physicians across the U.S. to commit to adopting one new patient-centered communication skill in 2014.

Anyone who has followed my work here on Mind the Gap knows that I am passionate about improving the way physicians and their care teams talk to and interact with patients. My passion stems both from my personal experiences as a health care executive, a patient advocate and patient.  I honestly believe that if we could improve how doctors and patients talk with one another beginning in the exam room we would fix much of what is broken with today’s health care system.

“I have discovered that the biggest problem with physician-patient communications is the illusion that it ever occurred! “

AdoptOneBigButtonMany physicians readily admit that their patient communication skills need work. But when faced with a burdensome daily practice schedule they make do with the physician-directed patient communication skills they learned in medical school. Besides…most physicians operate under the mistaken impression that patient-centered communications – the alternative to physician-directed communications – takes too much time and requires longer visits.

So How Will The Adopt One Challenge Fix Things?

The Challenge, to be launched later the Fall, is designed to accomplish three objective – behavioral objectives modeled after the Health Belief Model. These three objectives are:

  • Help physicians understand that their patient communication skills are not all they could be
  • Show physicians how their lack of patient-centered communication skills is a barrier to their ability to effectively engage and activate patients or to provide exceptional patient experiences
  • Serve as a “Call to Action” to prompt physicians to take action to improve their patient-centered communication skills

Here’s how the Adopt One! Challenge will accomplish these objectives:

Help physicians understand that their patient communication skills are not all they could be

Using audio recordings provided by participating physicians a team of independent, trained professionals will identify, measure and assess the patient communication skills employed by each physician. This research method – called conversation analysis – is the same method used in medical school. Unlike patient satisfaction surveys like HCAHPS which are not very prescriptive, the Challenge will provide participants with objective, detailed and actionable findings and recommendations.

Show physicians how their lack of patient-centered communication skills is a barrier to their ability to effectively engage and activate patients or to provide exceptional patient experiences

In addition to measuring and assessing their patient communication skills, each physician’s patient communication skills will be benchmarked against patient-centered best practices.

Over 30 years of research has linked the use of specific, patient-centered communication skills to more productive visits, increased patient engagement, better patient health outcomes, lower health care use and superior patient experiences.  By comparing physicians’ skills against these “best practices” we show them how their communication practices may be affecting patients, their practice and the organizations they work for or with.  We also show them which communication skills they may want to focus on improving.

Serve as a “Call to Action” to prompt physicians to take action to improve their patient-centered communication skills

The Challenge serves as a concrete call to action to physicians to take a specific action to learn a new patient-centered communication skill over the course of 12 months.  This call to action will require participants to 1) commit in writing to adopt/develop one new patient-centered communication skill of their choosing and 2) provide them with access to online training and resources needed to help them learn that new communication skill.

Because the Adopt One! Challenge is expected to become an annual event, participating physicians can measure their year-over-year progress as they add new patient-centered communication skills.

In future posts I will share more about the Adopt One! Challenge. In these future posts I will profiling members of the Adopt One! Challenge Advisory Board as well as the Partners that are making the Challenge possible.

The Adopt One! Challenge is Free To Individual Physicians.

If you are interested in offering the Adopt One! Challenge to all the physicians in your provider network?  E-mail us at contact@adoptonechallenge.com.

Patient Activation Is Only Half The Solution – Physicians Need To Be Activated As Well

Not long ago Nick Dawson, a friend and fellow blogger, paid me the compliment of saying I had inspired a post of his.   Well Nick now you have inspired me…and this post is the result.

Regarding the February Health Affairs edition on Patient Engagement the and follow-on Washington D.C. briefing, Nick writes:

Personally, I was disheartened by some word choices. Implying patients need to be activated suggests patients are passive and something has to be done to them in order for them to care about their health and interactions with healthcare providers. That misses the mark.

What about physician activation? … We should be helping health systems and providers find ways to reduce the stress and fear for patients who are already engaged.

Nick is right. 

The “Belle of the Health Affairs Ball” based on the social media coverage was Judith Hibbard’s interesting work linking health care costs to a person’s level of health activation.   While Dr. Hibbard takes pains to differentiate “activation” from “engagement,” most people are quick to conflate the two.  (Patient-centered communication bears a close resemblance to patient activation as well.)  Nick’s point is that focusing just on what the patient brings to the party in terms of their “knowledge, skills and confidence” is only half the problem.

What about physician activation?  Where in the Health Affairs special, or anywhere else for that matter, are discussions about the need to make sure that physicians (and other clinicians) have the knowledge, skills and confidence to effectively manage all the “already engaged” patients among us?

It Can’t Just Be About Fixing Patient Behavior

For too long, the focus among health care thought leaders has been all about fixing the patient.   If only patient were more engaged, more knowledgeable, more compliant, more trusting, more prepared, ask more questions, etc. 

There is a significant body of research which suggests that provider behaviors (like their communication style) are just as responsible as patients for many of the short coming in health care today.

Just as PAM research has shown that more activated patients generate lower costs…studies have shown that the physicians with strong patient-centered communication skills have lower costs as well.   I guess you could say that physicians with a physician-directed, bio-medical communication style have an equivalent of a 1-2 level of activation whereas physicians with a patient-centered communication style have an equivalent activation level of 3 to 4.

Pt Centered Communications and Outcomes2

Which Comes First – Activated Physicians Or Activated Patients?

I would argue that the real challenge facing providers today is to how to avoid disengaging or deactivating otherwise engaged and activated patients.

That’s because most people are already engaged in their own care, albeit not necessarily in the same way that providers want or expect.   So too, patients may well believe that they have the skills and knowledge they feel they need to deal with their own health…even if it is different from those skills, etc. measured by tools like PAM.

See : Patients Are Often More Engaged In Their Health Than Providers Think

In fact there is evidence to support this.  Patients with a regular source of care displayed significantly lower levels of patient activation that those without a regular source of care.  According to the researchers, “one possible explanation is that respondents with a regular physician are more likely to take a passive, deferential role in their care, believing their health care needs are being met by their provider(s).” *

The degree to which there is a “meeting of the minds” on engagement and activation between patient and physician, particularly during the office visit, will determine if patients are as engaged and activated when they leave the doctor’s office as they were when they entered.  It all boils down to how well the physician and patient are able to communicate.

Here’s what I mean.  How engaged or activated is a person going to be if what they have to say is interrupted, ignored or otherwise dismissed by busy, stressed  clinicians?  Is a patient going to share information or new skills they found on the internet with their physician if they are dismissed as a Googler?

The Take Away?

Nothing against PAM or Dr. Hibbard’s work which stand on its own merits.  Rather, it’s about health care being a two-way affair…with patients and clinicians both have a stake in health outcomes.  The sooner health care providers, academic researchers, and health publications like Health Affairs realize this…the sooner things can improve.

That’s what I think. What’s your opinion?

Sources:

Levinson, W., Lesser, C. S., & Epstein, R. M. (2010). Developing physician communication skills for patient-centered care. Health Affairs, 29(7).

Olson, D. P., & Windish, D. M. (2010). Communication discrepancies between physicians and hospitalized patients. Archives of Internal Medicine, 170(15), 1302-7. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.239

Roumie, C. L., Greevy, R., Wallston, K. a, Elasy, T. a, Kaltenbach, L., Kotter, K., Dittus, R. S., et al. (2010). Patient centered primary care is associated with patient hypertension medication adherence. Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Bertakis, K. D., & Azari, R. (2011). Patient-centered care is associated with decreased health care utilization. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine: JABFM, 24(3), 229-39.

* Alexander, J. a, Hearld, L. R., Mittler, J. N., & Harvey, J. (2011). Patient-Physician Role Relationships and Patient Activation among Individuals with Chronic Illness. Health Services Research, 1-23.

The Fastest Way To Disempower, De-Activate, and Disengage Any Patient

I may not know how to tell the difference between an empowered patient, an engaged patient, or an activated patient.  But I do know that fastest way to disempower, disengage, and de-activate any patient is a trip to the doctor’s office or the hospital.  A visit to an average primary care physician (or specialist) is to an empowered/activated/engaged patient what Kryptonite is to Superman.  It will stop all but the strongest willed patients dead in their tracks.

We patients have been socialized that way.   Think about your earliest memories of “going to the doctor.”  For me, I remember my Mom taking me to the Pediatrician.  Early on I learned by watching the interaction between my Mom and the doctor that they each had a role.  The doctor’s role was that of expert – he spoke and my Mom listened.  I was there just to have one or more extremities twisted and prodded.  And oh the medicinal smell…

Things haven’t changed much in the 40 years since I was a kid sitting in Dr. Adam’s office.  Well maybe the smell isn’t as medicinal.  But the roles played by doctors and patients haven’t changed much.   Studies over the last 30 years consistently demonstrate this unfortunate reality.  If you were to believe the admonitions of the NIH, AHRQ, hospitals, pharma and every WebMD-look alike, you would think that patients these days would be more involved in their visit…asking questions, sharing information and making decisions.  But as most physicians will attest…most patients don’t have much to say in the exam room anyway.   And the longer they have to wait before being seen, the less patients are likely to bring up the few questions they wanted to ask.

This is a huge problem.  It belies conventional wisdom that the key to fixing health care begins and ends with changing patient behavior.  If only we could get patients to be more compliant, if only patients would do what I tell them, blah, blah, blah.

Physician behavior, specifically, the way they think about, relate to and talk to patients needs to change (no e-mail, text messages and social media will not solve this problem)…before long term, sustainable change in patient behavior is possible.

If you look at most theoretical models underpinning patient empowerment, patient activation, etc., you will see that none of them factor in the impact of the care delivery context, e.g., doctor’s office, hospital room, surgery suite, or pharmacy, on patient behavior.   A patient considered Stage IV (Activated) on the Patient Activation Model (PAM) or the “Action Phase” using Stages of Change would “crash and burn” if their doctor is among the majority who employ a traditional physician-dominated, biomedical communication style or “bedside manner.”

How empowered, activated, or engaged can a patient be if they don’t know when to open their mouth, are ignored , or fear taking up too much of the doctor’s time?

Yes you can and should probably change physicians…but since so many physicians “practice” the same way…even supposedly Patient Centered Medical Homes…what’s the point?

Until health plans and providers take a serious look at incentivizing physicians to become more patient or relationship centered, behavior change efforts directed at patients can only accomplish just so much.

That’s my opinion.  What’s yours?

Sources:

Cegala, D. An Exploration of Factors Promoting Patient Participation in Primary Care Medical Interviews.  Health Communication, March 2011.  1–10, 2011.

Related Posts:

6 Seconds To More Effective Physician-Patient Communications

Lack Of Time And Reimbursement  – Is That Why Physicians Don’t Do a Better Job Communicating With Patients?