By Winonah Hoffman, BSN, RN and Dalton Douglas, Clinical Informatics Operations Manager
Engaging patients in their health and improving health outcomes is a continuous goal of population health. By better understanding how patients prefer to receive guidance – instead of just using a traditional, one-size-fits-all approach – we can recognize and align with what resonates with patients and motivate them to make decisions that could ultimately lead to living a longer and higher quality of life.
A primer on population health and value-based care
Populaton health works to improve the health outcomes of a group of individuals by engaging patients in their health care to improve specific health metrics for each individual in the group. This approach has proven to create higher quality, more affordable care for all.
In value-based care, remimbursement is dependent on positive patient outcomes, not the volume of services rendered. It requires a team-based proactive approach to care that focuses on the whole person.
Population health is an integral part of value-based care because healthcare providers need insight into the characteristics of both individuals and larger groups of patients to provide care that delivers positive patient outcomes, not services for the sake of services. Value-based care has been an integral part of the culture at Austin Regional Clinic since 1980. Today, we manage 270,604 members under 29 value-based contracts with 65 dedicated clinical and administrative providers and staff, enhanced and supported by ARC’s family of care teams.
When health-related communications are oriented towards an individual’s values, more patients “get” why the information is relevant to them and take action that improves or maintains their health. Striving to better understand our patients helps us personalize the content and messaging. As an example, we worked with MDH Consulting to develop values-based communications to encourage patients to get their colon cancer screening, a too-often-avoided preventive health screening.
The connected era we live in has revealed more about people’s healthcare preferences. Cognitive research models can now be applied to health care to better understand and incorporate patients’ preferences, so we can assist them in improving the quality of care.
The outcome of this connectedness is to improve our insights into patients’ health status, preferences, and priorities. We are gaining a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to sustaining health improvement initiatives.
Looking for the “a-ha” moment
By better understanding their needs, we improve communication with our patients. The right words do more than communicate, they educate and empower. When patients receive messages centered on their specific values and behaviors, they report more “a-ha” moments about things that they may have considered too confusing or mundane in the past. As a result, their health decisions become more precise and appropriate for them.
ARC’s goal was to determine if customized messages would prevent more colon cancers by increasing colon cancer screening rates compared to using a single message to all patients. Bottom line: they did.
Here’s how. A total of 5,724 patients were part of the study. Personalized messages went to 1,629 patients and a control group of 1,662 of the patients received the same messaging that went out each year. The remaining patients received regular reminders but no additional communications.
When measuring the response rate, the patients who received the letters or emails with customized verbiage consistently responded at a higher rate than the control group. Overall, ARC increased email response rates from 27% to 39% and test completion rates increased 2% to 5%.
Engaging patients in their health and improving health outcomes is a continuous goal of population health. By better understanding how patients prefer to receive guidance – instead of just using a traditional, one-size-fits-all approach – we recognized and aligned with what our patients ultimately wanted to know: “Is this screening really relevant to me? And do I really need to do it now?”
We confirmed that by using data and an understanding of human psychology, patients were more likely to respond to outreach efforts and make decisions about their health that could lead to living longer with a better quality of life.
Winonah Hoffman, RN, BSN, Clinical Transformation for Population Health & Clinical Quality Nursing Director and Dalton Douglas, Clinical Informatics Operations Manager