Systems that help patients actively participate in their health care can see significant cost reductions.
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PROBLEM: At a certain point, there's only so much a doctor can do. Patients play a role in their health care not just in terms of chronic disease management and the lifestyle factors that lead to good or poor health, but also in researching their options, asking the right questions, and being an active participant in treatment decisions. All, of course, which is easier said than done. But having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to actively participate in one's care has been linked to better health outcomes; it would therefore make sense that patient engagement would also affect health care costs.
METHODOLOGY: Judith Hibbard of the University of Oregon and colleagues analyzed data from over 33,000 adults treated by a Minnesota health care delivery system. They determined the patients' level of engagement on a 0-100 "activation" scale, based on their agreement with statements like "I know how to prevent problems with my health," and "I am confident that I can tell a doctor my concerns, even when he or she does not ask." The researchers looked specifically at conditions that patients are required to take an active role in managing: asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.