Patient Engagement Coming into Sharper Focus through the ACA

Physicians need to enable higher levels of patient engagement.

The healthcare industry has been rocked by a number of changes in the past few years and physicians will need to increase their emphasis on patient retention. Although many healthcare providers are still learning what effect the Affordable Care Act will have on their practices, many payers are actually looking for ways to increase patient engagement. This will be used to determine value-based reimbursements for physicians, according to EHR Intelligence.

Parts of the ACA aim to make the healthcare climate in the U.S. more transparent for patients.  There have previously been significant barriers between patients and payers. Physicians will be held more accountable for educating patients on their options and improving quality of care. Because of these new trends, payers and physicians will look to implement more apps and portals so patients can take a more active role in their own healthcare.

"It is forcing insurers to think of becoming more consumer-centric and giving IT tools to consumers to support their decision-making and keep them more engaged because just like retail, at the end of the day, you want repeat business, you want retention," Deanne Kasim, a health insights analyst at IDC, told EHR Intelligence.

Kasim added that there can no longer be a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare. Patients need to be educated on their unique conditions and potential treatment options.

How Physicians Can Engage With Patients
Healthcare providers may face an additional challenge because individual patients want to be able to interact with their physicians through different channels. The option to interact with doctors online is becoming increasingly popular, which is why industry startup Propeller Health created a mobile app to reduce readmission rates, Modern Healthcare reported.

Because reducing readmissions is an important initiative, people with chronic conditions will need to be a target of healthcare marketing efforts. This population of patients is more likely to be readmitted to the hospital than people who aren't chronically ill, costing Medicare $26 billion. The Propeller Health app is specifically designed to target Medicare patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by monitoring how frequently they take their medication through a sensor placed in their inhalers. Earlier detection and intervention can help reduce readmissions and healthcare spending. 

The sensors are connected to smartphones, so if a patient is using too much medication or relying on a rescue inhaler too frequently, a physician can be notified, Modern Healthcare stated. This app is one of many aimed to help people with chronic conditions take more ownership of their own care.

Under the ACA, physicians can face financial penalties if patients return to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged, which is why reducing readmissions and increasing healthcare engagement is a top priority for providers.

Healthcare Marketing Should Target Patients With Chronic Conditions
Boosting patient engagement may start with providing more information about how individuals can take more control of their own care. However, more healthcare data will need to be collected and assessed to determine the effectiveness of these initiatives, according to EHR Intelligence. The healthcare industry has changed dramatically in a relatively short time and physicians need new tools to monitor patient engagement and readmissions. 

Because of the potential penalties for doctors, physicians' practices need to target patients with chronic conditions through their marketing efforts. These individuals can be informed about ways to take a more active role in their care plans, whether it's making regular visits or utilizing a mobile app. This gives physicians a way to boost engagement over time, which could contribute to improved quality of care. 

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