There are so many good things happening in healthcare to advance patient and family engagement. Yet, when I boot up my computer and check my Twitter feed, I just shake my head wondering if people have missed the point. Perhaps, it’s inevitable with Twitter’s 140-character limitation. However, it sounds as though people think they’ve found the “holy grail of patient engagement” – that single answer that will bring patients into the conversation, empower them and activate them to do the right things to improve their health and well-being.
Here’s what I hear:
“Give them a portal and access to their health records.”
“Portals are worthless without case management.”
“Technology, no. Face-to-face patient-physician engagement wins hands down.”
“We need better informed, patient advocates.”
“Give them a computer app to manage their health.”
“Send them reminders.”
“We need more one-to-one patient education.”
I applaud the passion, but I truly hope no one believes there is a one-size-fits-all approach. People assimilate information differently, have different preferences, different levels of literacy and different abilities.
As a communications professional of more than 40 years, it’s been my experience, that the most effective initiatives have been those that employed multiple communication channels and multiple touches, tailored to their specific audiences. The more I knew about my audience, the better able I was to tailor and deliver my message, and ultimately achieve my goals.
Now as a patient advocate for a spouse who lives with diabetes and heart failure, I see a strong parallel. I see his response when his doctor is able to clearly communicate the purpose and critical need for closely following certain protocols. I see how certain technology tools have given him insights for managing his health and a sense of control over his conditions. And thank goodness for the nurse practitioner/educator who was able to work with him one to one to identify and address specific eye problems he was having and then follow up with him.
I’m grateful for every tool and every individual along the continuum of care that has helped to engage and activate my spouse. And I’m encouraged to see greater communication and collaboration among his care providers. Each has a role to play.
Holy grail? I say, let’s talk about patient-centered care, communication and collaboration!
Collaboration is key, but most initiatives fall short because they seek the wrong kind of collaboration.
It’s not a joining of vendors and partners and insiders — it has to start with the patient and their family. And each patient is unique with discrete and very personal needs.
Starting by listening to the patient is the most crucial form of engagement — and an essential first step.
Excellent, excellent piece, Christine. I couldn’t agree more!