Not enough Americans take it upon themselves to learn about the healthcare system. We should be making it easier for them to do so.
Over the past 20 years, the health care sector and its customers have awakened to the need to improve quality and have begun to design systems to deliver care more safely, systematically, and reliably. Some segments of health care have shown remarkable improvement in clinical performance as a result of measurement. One success has been learning about patient experience, where a broad array of patient experience surveys has presented health care providers with opportunities for improvement. We as a country, however, have failed to deploy an effective agenda to more fully learn from patients about how to keep them healthy or to engage them in their own care.
As systems transform, it becomes clear that active participation by patients in their own wellness and care is critical to achieving better health. We have seen great improvement on important quality measures like control of high blood pressure, and can translate those improvements into avoided deaths, strokes, and heart attacks. Yet these results have begun to plateau at less-than-optimal levels. Motivating patients to make diet and lifestyle changes and to commit to taking necessary medications is a strategy that will help us move up the curve to excellence.
Unfortunately, we understand very little about how to motivate patients to adopt positive health behaviors. Many people do not understand basic health care language, and are mystified by insurance benefit design. Patients are often unaware of what they can do to improve their health. Faced with a daunting list of to-dos, they have no idea where to begin. Nor do we do enough to educate patients about the benefits and harms of treatments or encourage them to be active partners in treatment decisions.