As the leading provider of informed consent and other care communication solutions, Standard Register Healthcare is highly focused on the ubiquitous trend of patient engagement. It is our core belief that by helping our customers empower people with information, we can improve people’s health and the healthcare system. To that end, informed consent is a critical process that can greatly improve a patient’s understanding of their care, mitigate risk, and by incorporating the consent document into the care delivery workflow, improve safety. However, while informed consent is beneficial, a fundamental change still needs to take place in this process and healthcare at large if we are going to unlock the full potential of “patient engagement.”
Today: a Provider-Driven Process
Informed consent, by definition, is a process that documents a patient’s permission to undergo a procedure or treatment. However, no matter how well informed they are upon consent, the document primarily serves the legal needs of the physician and describes something that is happening to the patient. Participating in a recent mHealth conference, it struck me that the majority of vendors and products still operate and are being designed under the old paternalistic paradigm whereby information and workflow center on the healthcare institution. And while much lip service is given to “patient-centeredness,” most of the data and value revolves around the provider, not the patient. The good news is that this paradigm is being challenged and change is underway.
Shifting the Paradigm
It’s my belief that this shift can best be summarized as the move towards informed choice. By definition, choice means that a person has the power, right and ability to choose different things based on preference. It also implies that the person is actively engaged and participating in the process, not on a serial basis, but in a pervasive and asynchronous manner. Informed choice, then, is a dynamic process that acknowledges that people are not only active members of the care team, but owners of the healthcare process.
Engaging Patients on “Their Terms”
Some observations I’ve made are as follows. To engage people, communication is paramount. Information must be personalized and patient-facing applications must be incorporated into the care delivery workflow. Effective solutions will require us to rethink traditional processes and be prepared to engage people on their terms — not the institution’s or the provider’s, but in ways and means that make sense to the consumer. It will be critical for healthcare organizations to set and manage expectations of care. This means that educating people will become a critical aspect of the care delivery process, so too will understanding how people learn, and how they consume content. But perhaps most importantly, systems and institutions must be prepared to not only solicit, but value patient-generated data. In order to truly value data being generated by the patient, and incorporating that information into the care delivery process, it means that the healthcare system must learn to trust the patient, their family and their advocates. Culturally, it speaks to the trends we are seeing around ownership of data, transparency of information and why a seemingly obvious and assumed concept like ‘patient engagement’ is generating so much buzz in the market.
Rethinking Care Communications
As patients become more engaged and empowered in the care delivery process and healthcare providers more fully incorporate them into the care delivery workflow, it is incumbent upon the vendor community to rethink our design principles. We need to create effective care communication solutions that not only extend the reach of information, but also engage patients on their terms. In doing so, we will help change the paternalistic paradigm of care delivery whereby care is something that happens to a patient. Instead, we will create empowered consumers who make informed choices around their health.