Report Finds Patients Want Engagement to Manage Chronic Conditions


Two surveys, one each for patients and providers, reveal gaps between patient confidence to manage disease or pain and what they'd like to see from their physicians.

There’s more attention than ever being paid to the role that primary care can play in keeping patients out of the hospital. Now, a new report from a provider of patient engagement services finds that patients with chronic disease, who are the biggest driver of Medicare’s $17 billion in preventable hospital readmissions, lack the confidence and knowledge to manage their conditions—and would welcome more regular input from doctors.

The report, “Strengthening Chronic Care: Patient Engagement Strategies for Better Management of Chronic Conditions,” from West Healthcare, features results of 2 surveys—1 from 502 patients with chronic disease or pain, and 1 from 417 providers—that together highlight gaps in what patients know about managing their condition and how doctors could fill the void.

West is just one of the many players in the growing sector of care management solutions, whose entrants seek to help everyone from primary care physicians to accountable care organizations (ACOs) do more to keep tabs on patients between primary care visits. There’s evidence that giving patients more support in chronic disease management can prevent readmissions or visits to the emergency department; however, physician shortages mean the healthcare provider needs help with this, and technology can offer answers.

The report comes just a week after the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) announced an initiative to find ways for primary care physicians to take a more active role in preventing readmissions.

The West report finds that just being diagnosed with a chronic condition sets off alarms: patients report feelings of exhaustion (26%), anger (24%), and trouble sleeping (23%) after getting the word. Obesity, in particular, seems to affect patients, with 52% reporting feeling depressed after a diagnosis.

The question is, what happens next? Here, the gap between what patients should do and their knowledge emerges: 39% say they are only “somewhat knowledgeable” about condition management. And providers agree with this: 75% say they are only somewhat confident their patients know how to manage their conditions.

According to the report, patients’ woes start with a lack of confidence:

· 35% of patients aren’t sure what their target numbers are for health indicators like blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol; 67% of providers agree patients don’t know their targets.

· 44% of patients are only “somewhat confident” of managing their condition.

· 59% with chronic conditions say they aren’t doing all they should to manage their condition, and 20% rate their own care management skills as “poor.”

Patients say they could use help with disease or pain management, with 70% of the survey respondents saying they want more “resources of clarity” in this task. They also say:

· 39% of patients need the most help when at home or during “daily life.”

· 40% need help when they have symptoms.

· 36% need help when they have pain.

Women, in particular, crave specific information for their condition rather than general information. Women tend to have less confidence than men in managing a disease or pain, but they are more likely to ask for help. Only 12% of the respondents said their healthcare provider is doing a good job delivering specific information, and 66% say they use most of their appointment to discuss symptoms than strategies for managing their condition.

As a group, the patients say they would benefit from periodic check-ins from providers (54%), and 20% say they would like to have 24/7 access to help. But right now, only 21% of providers say they check in with patients between visits. Patients are open to both 1-way prompts and 2-way telehealth solutions, but they prefer the 2-way method.

The report also covered the use of things like patient surveys and biometric monitoring, which sends patient data to healthcare teams who can intervene if something goes awry.

“When patients are engaged in their healthcare, results are better for both patients and the healthcare organizations that serve them,” the report concludes. “It is in everyone’s best interest for providers to adopt chronic care solutions and patient engagement strategies that lead to active partnerships with patients and better clinical outcomes.”

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