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ACO Success Depends on Patient Engagement

If you were at the golf course, would you rather participate or sit out and watch everyone else play? You’d want to play, of course—the same is true for patients’ desires to participate in their own health care. Many patients are eager and willing to partake in managing their health, and as a result, cost savings, patient care and ACO success overall skyrockets.

Three main types of patient engagement to increase ACO success:

nurse-providing-patient-centered-careDirect Patient Communication

Direct communication involves discussing the patient’s condition, providing medical recommendations and treatment options, and determining the patient’s preferences. All facts are taken into consideration to ultimately arrive at the best medical solution.

Communication from the Organization

This communication is from the organizers of the facility as a whole. These individuals request patient input to ensure the organization can provide a timely, quality level of care based on the demand and expectations.

Decision-Making Communication

Decision-making communication allows patients to have a say in the creation of policies, regulations and laws that affect public health care. This helps consumers believe their voice is important, and ultimately makes them feel more comfortable with the establishment.

The other end of decision making—the patient end—may very well be the most important aspect of the patient-physician relationship. When difficult medical decisions need to be made, the physician is looked to as the expert, confidante and helping hand.

And, this guiding relationship provides more than just moral support for the patient.

Patients who receive greater decision-making support typically receive medical costs that are 5.3% lower than those who receive a standard level of support, according to Health Affairs.

The patients who received extra guidance from health coaches also had 12.5% fewer hospital readmissions. No one wants to go back to the hospital once they’ve left, and doing so within 30 days after discharge is heart wrenching. In addition, extra time, resources and finances are spent on these readmissions—many of could have been avoided entirely.

With the lack of communication to beneficiaries, many don’t even know they’ve been assigned to an ACO and will unintentionally seek care from an outside health care facility or another ACO. This can lead to patients receiving care in a new ACO each year, which provides major inconsistencies.

One of the major benefits of being part of an ACO is the streamlined health care. The doctors, nurses and facilities within the organization communicate much better and create coordinated care plans. This is a greatly improved process compared to the disjointed care between individual facilities, which often required doctors to complete multiple confidentiality papers to communicate with one another.

When patients leave an ACO they’ve been receiving care, they now have to rebuild patient-physician relationships at a new organization and work to establish a mutual understanding. This can create disconnect with your care and make it more difficult for you to be satisfied with your provider.

Incentivize patients to stay with your ACO and streamline health care for them

Inform patients of the ACO benefits

Most patients don’t understand the benefits of being part of an ACO because it has never been explained to them. Take the time to thoroughly explain the many perks, including receiving better care and being more involved in their health. A notification letter is sent to patients when they establish a relationship with an ACO doctor; however, this is often missed in the mail or does not clearly explain the benefits. If feasible, take the time to call new patients and answer their questions throughout the care process.

Offer financial incentives

Encourage beneficiaries to choose providers within the ACO network by offering lower co-pays or deductibles for doing so. Along with the financial incentives, streamlined care must remain a priority to continue patient satisfaction. These initiatives will ultimately keep patients in the ACO, and ultimately save the organization money.

Encourage patients to engage in their health

Many health care facilities rely on the outdated communication processes, and many patients adapted to those subpar ways, too. Engagement hasn’t always been encouraged enough in the past, making it hard for patients to naturally do so now. Patients should be continuously reminded that their feedback and opinions are appreciated. Building an environment where these conversations are welcomed and encouraged is important, and all staff members should promote this collaboration.

The path to ACO success can be a long, winding road, but one that is continuously working to improve health care. ACOs are created to provide quality patient care, and that improved care starts with a collaborative facility.

General Medicine, The Post-Hospitalist Company can help your organization improve patient care, adhere to the increased regulations and improve communication throughout the organization. Our post-hospitalists specialize in providing the very best post-acute care for your patients. Let’s achieve greater ACO success together.

Contact General Medicine

Tom Prose