When it comes to managing personal finances and their health, Americans are not a particularly knowledgeable group (probably no worse than other countries, I might add). A new study published in Health Affairs today suggest that 41% of Americans – not a majority, but still respectable – have the knowledge and confidence to manage their own health affairs. (See the full press release below). In an ideal world, physician practices should be the ones teaching patients and working with them to manage their health. Unfortunately, absent a means of covering the costs or getting some return on such an investment, a major education project is not going to happen in most situations.
Nevertheless, patient education has an important role in a physician practice. At a minimum, developing (or otherwise acquiring) handouts that are clear and professional is an important service from clinical care and marketing perspectives. In multi-physician practices, this cost is spread out among more patients, so that the cost per patient is low.
I see patient education as a marketing program that supports good clinical care, and which helps tie and bond patients to you. A physician visit can be overwhelming, as patients are left with various instructions, maybe a prescription or two, a payment to be made and a new appointment to schedule. By the time the patient is through this gauntlet, all too often they have forgotten – or confused – important points that you discussed with them. This is where the written instruction – even if the patient does the writing on a form that you provide – is very important to improve the chances of patient compliance. Devlop a one page form for patients to (1) write down questions they have, and then (2) write down your instructions. Put these on clipboards and leave in the reception room for patients to use (get the questions down first) and then to take the form with them when they leave.
Here’s the release with highlights of the study and the link to the full article:
Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC)
For Immediate Release
Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008
How Engaged Are American Consumers in Their Health and Health Care?
New Study Offers Baseline Snapshot of Patient Activation Levels for U.S. Adults
WASHINGTON, D.C. –– The level of patient activation — a person’s ability to manage their health and health care — varies considerably in the U.S. population, with less than half of adults (41.4%) at the highest level, according to a national study released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).
The Patient Activation Measure (PAM) was designed to assess an individual’s knowledge, skill and confidence in managing their health and consists of a 13-item scale that asks people about their beliefs, knowledge and confidence for taking an active role in their health and health care. Based on responses to the 13-item scale, each person is assigned an activation score.
Prior research using the PAM has relied on relatively small samples or groups, such as health plan enrollees, Medicaid enrollees in several local areas, and older adults with chronic conditions. HSC’s 2007 Health Tracking Household Survey is the first large nationally representative survey — information on 13,500 adults — to include the PAM to assess the level of activation in the U.S. population. HSC is a nonpartisan health policy research organization funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the survey and the study.