For hospitals, “business as usual” prevails even during times of unprecedented fluctuations in patients seeking care. After doing their rounds, clinicians and staff members are also coordinating care with other providers, ensuring prescriptions are filled and lab tests and imaging studies are monitored. While physicians are used to being in the driver’s seat, prepared patients could go a long way to ease the administrative and decision-making burden.
These prepared patients show up with knowledge, thoughtful questions and a strong willingness to act on health advice. According to many studies, an informed and involved patient can experience better outcomes. Additionally, PocketHealth’s Patient Pulse 2022 Survey Report revealed that these empowered patients are happier with their experience. Technology is the mode of preparation for these patients, and online patient platforms contribute to that. They’re lauded as more than just a vehicle for communication – they provide educational value, as well.
This level of involvement is referred to as patient engagement and activation. Engaged and informed patients are interested in what they can do on their own to improve their health, rather than leaving it all in the hands of their providers. Here are four reasons why informed patients are the best patients, when given access to their patient data and patient medical history.
1. Informed patients rely on a variety of educational tools
A majority of patients are interested in learning about their health conditions, and use multiple sources. In fact, 71% of patients who use PocketHealth said they always or usually spend time researching their specific health condition/s, according to the 2022 Patient Survey Report . The survey polled PocketHealth users in Canada and the U.S. Among those patients who research their conditions, 83% feel it empowers them greatly or to a moderate degree.
The good news for doctors is that patients rely on a variety of sources of information to supplement the information and guidance that they get from their doctor. Here’s where patients get their information (they could choose more than one response).
Some providers may be weary of patients consulting the internet for health information. It can be hard to decipher which sources are credible, which sites are legitimate and if the information is substantiated by clinical research. It’s almost impossible to prevent patients from researching their conditions online, but providers can direct patients to information that’s factual and trustworthy.
2. Engaged patients are more likely to adhere to treatment
Engaged and activated patients are fully invested in their care and ask more meaningful questions during clinic appointments, elevating discussions and furthering the doctor-patient relationship.
Clinicians can spend less time explaining exactly what the condition is, and more time explaining how treatments can have an impact. This level of questioning and engagement is a relatively modern phenomenon, but it’s a good one. That’s because patients who are disengaged are less likely to adhere to treatment.
A lack of engagement negatively affects outcomes and can be frustrating for physicians. In the era of value-based care, a patient who doesn’t adhere to treatment negatively impacts the health system’s and physician’s bottom line, while also frustrating their sense of mission. Why spend time treating patients if they aren’t going to listen or follow advice?
Engaged patients often do a lot of research on their providers as well, so pat yourselves on the back if they’re coming to you. It means they trust you and your care.
Conversely, engaged patients tend to exhibit more positive health behaviors – eating a balanced diet , exercising regularly and moderating or avoiding unhealthy behaviors like smoking and substance abuse.
And electronic medical records (EMRs) show that engaged patients with chronic medical conditions are more likely to have metrics within the normal range, such as cholesterol levels, body mass index, blood pressure and A1c levels,. Meanwhile , less engaged counterparts are three times more likely to have unmet medical needs, and delay medical care at twice the rate of activated patients.
3. Engaged patients can help alleviate extra work, reducing burnout
Physician burnout is a real and ongoing problem. A 2022 Medscape survey showed physician burnout ranging from 26% for public health/preventive medicine doctors to 60% for emergency room doctors. Radiologists are in the elevated group, at 49%.
The top reason for burnout? 60% of physicians chose “too many bureaucratic tasks.” It’s not just doctors. Another survey this year showed that 34% of nurses are considering leaving their jobs by the end of the year, and 44% say that burnout and high stress are the main reasons.
Digital tools can increase the administrative burden, but they can also decrease that burden if implemented the right way. Simplifying the digital workflow to empower patients ultimately means reducing staff time on administrative tasks. Giving a patient access to imaging and reports through secure platforms decreases staff time spent faxing, printing and calling over results. They can access patient data without having to copy imaging studies from the EHR to a disc or emailing a report.
Ask staff members how much time they spend copying studies onto discs, printing and sending reports. Then think about how easy it would be if a patient gave you access to an imaging study with a simple link, so you could prepare ahead of the visit, or easily access the patient data while they were in the room, versus loading a disc or having a staff member do it, and sorting through paper reports.
4. Engaged patients have more satisfaction with care received
Engaged patients have thought about their condition and how to improve it, while also researching providers to find the best one for them. So it shouldn’t be surprising that a high number of engaged patients are ultimately more satisfied with their care — and their outcomes — as a result.
The survey found that 85% of patients reported a moderate or a great deal of improvement in their health experience. Plus:
These aren’t isolated results. An orthopedic study showed that informed patients often have more realistic expectations, which again is associated with better outcomes, in this case for spine and joint replacement surgery. The study found that engaged patients had more productive discussions with their doctors, and these relationships yielded gains in patient outcomes. Both patients who had surgery and those who did not, reported better overall and disease-specific quality of life, when they were engaged with their care.
The good news is that patient engagement can be nurtured, taught and enabled by physicians and health systems. Digital health solutions can help with patient engagement, while also reducing burnout and the administrative tasks for doctors and medical staff.
Offering patients access to their radiology records through PocketHealth can facilitate access to their medical history and electronic medical records in an easy way. Visit our Provider Page to learn how you can help patients become better informed.