Yes, there will be patient engagement – in a big way. Accountable Care Organization’s (ACO’s) will play a large part in this trend, but more importantly, an increasingly frugal, convenience-driven, and tech-happy patient will come tofore. First, let’s start with the impact of ACO’s, which will provide the technology and social drivers to encourage patient engagement.
Many Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) will tell you that 50%-75% of their visits could be handled over the phone or Internet video-conferencing, but they don’t make use of these tools because they won’t get paid. ACOs will fix the doctor’s dilemma by making it smart economically to do virtual visits if possible. And, it’s harder for a patient to be “unengaged” on a virtual visit, given that an increasing amount of technology will be used by the patient.
Think about the army of brilliant, innovative developers working on mHealth applications and devices that enable people to be monitored and treated without leaving their easy chair. Much of the mHealth technology will be enabled and powered by the fastest growing technology phenomenon of our time: the smart phone. And each mHealth innovation seems to be cooler and more useful than the last one. Finally, mHealth now has an ROI thanks to ACOs – if a $100 device can be given away free that keeps a patient out of an acute care setting, then the investment is worth it indeed.
Also consider ACO executives who are turning more of their attention to the new Holy Grail: keeping patients healthy, in their home, and out of the health system. That’s a lot of brain power that will shift from better technology, high utilization, and novel care techniques in the hospitals to the same passion for healthcare innovation for the home. And it’s not just healthcare executives trying to crack the new code of home-based health and patient engagement, but all the product and services that support the executive – like Divurgent, for example.
Now, let’s discuss changing patient behavior. In the end, the biggest factor affecting patient engagement will be the patient, of course, but this will be a new kind of patient. A kind of patient (by-and-large) who believes their time is increasingly valuable, has high expectations for technology and customer service, and who are sharing an increasing amount of the healthcare expense burden (yes, even with ACO’s, more costs will shift to the patient). These patients will make copious use of the internet and a cadre of home health and wellness technologies to avoid a drive to the doctor’s office, spending a ½ hour in a waiting room with other coughing patients, and make a payment that will go toward their deductible. And when it comes to chronic problems (I know because of my sinusitis), patients will engage in social media to discuss the nuances of their conditions and learn about the latest treatment techniques.
So yes, patient engagement will grow and will grow quickly.