The Importance of Patient Education

Patient education is more important than ever in today’s value-based care system, which focuses on patient outcomes beyond the four walls of your healthcare organization. For a growing number of hospitals and practices, the key to educating patients and ensuring they have a good understanding of their care recommendations is simple—effective patient and family communication.

Why prioritize patient education?

The best way for healthcare organizations across the nation to understand the importance of patient education is by exploring five key reasons why patient education should be a strategic priority:

  1. Hospital Reimbursements
  2. Chronic Illness Prevention
  3. Healthcare Cost Reduction
  4. Clinician Time Savings
  5. Patient Experience Improvements

 

1. Hospital Reimbursements

The COVID-19 pandemic led healthcare organizations to rely heavily upon value-based care reimbursements, accelerating the shift toward patient-centered care.1 Now, providers are increasing patient education efforts to ensure they continue to meet the standards of value-based care.

CMS Value-Based Programs for Provider Payment

The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), Quality Payment Programs (QPPs), and Value Modifier (VM) Program are a few examples of value-based reimbursement programs. These are designed to:

  • Tie payments to quality and cost-efficient care.
  • Increase the use of healthcare information.
  • Drive improvement in health outcomes.

Fortunately, technology makes it is easier than ever to go beyond patient handouts to provide quality education to patients in a cost-efficient and time-efficient way. Rather than sinking staff time into manual patient outreach, providers can educate patients through automated text messages. Targeted messages can link to educational blog posts, videos, and other online resources, delivered directly to patients’ cell phones to encourage better outcomes.

2. Chronic Illness Prevention

Another takeaway from COVID-19 was the increased health risk associated with patients with chronic conditions. A study from 12 states reported that 73% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 had at least one underlying chronic condition, and rates of hospitalization increased as the number of conditions increased.2

Even before the pandemic, 90% of the nation’s healthcare expenditures were for people with chronic and mental health conditions, and chronic conditions accounted for 7 of the 10 leading causes of death in the US.2 One of the most successful ways to combat chronic illnesses is through self-management supported by patient education.

Many prevalent chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis share common challenges associated with self-management, which include:

  • Dealing with symptoms and disability.
  • Monitoring physical indicators.
  • Managing complex medication regimens.
  • Maintaining proper nutrition and exercise.
  • Adjusting to psychological and social demands.
  • Difficult lifestyle adjustments.
  • Engaging in effective interactions with health care providers.

Relationships between patients and their healthcare providers, friends, family, and community are fundamental to the self-management of chronic illness. Self-management programs and education tailored to specific groups with various delivery strategies have proven successful at improving health outcomes in targeted populations.3

3. Healthcare Cost Reduction

Unnecessary patient readmissions cost the US government roughly $17 billion each year.4 To combat the alarming rate of readmissions, CMS created the Hospital Readmission Reduction Programs in 2012, which penalizes hospitals when too many patients return within one month of treatment.

Nearly a decade later, federal records show that CMS will penalize 2,545 hospitals in 2021 for having too many Medicare patients readmitted within 30 days.5 That’s nearly half of the nation’s hospitals! But how can organizations cut down on readmissions and avoid penalties without incurring additional expenses on follow-up resources?

Patient education can help providers inform and remind patients of the proper ways to self-manage care and avoid nonessential readmissions. Better education can also help patients understand the care setting most appropriate for their condition and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital.

For example, an uninformed patient might seek treatment in the Emergency Department (ED) for a minor issue, when an Urgent Care Center would be much more appropriate. The ED is one of the most expensive healthcare settings, and should be reserved only for critical events—not for nonurgent care.

Educating patients on how to follow self-care recommendations and when and where to seek treatment helps support faster recovery, reducing readmissions and expenses.

4. Clinician Time Savings

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has reported that the US will face a shortage of more than 100,000 physicians by 2030.6 As the shortage grows, our physicians grow increasingly short on time. As it is, the average doctor sees 20 patients per day.7

This means patient visits must be short, which can be problematic for several reasons. To start, shorter consultation times have been linked to poorer health for patients and increased burnout for doctors.

Patient Health

Short appointments make it difficult for patients to communicate with their doctors and for doctors to ensure patients fully understand the next steps they should be taking in their care plan. But how can healthcare organizations bridge the gap when time is finite and physician resources are dwindling?

Following up post-visit to provide patient education and reminders is an effective way to help patients self-manage their health. For example, HIPAA-compliant text messages can reach patients directly and can be automated to make outreach easy for care teams.

Physician Burnout

42% of all physicians report experiencing burnout, which can lead to reduced energy, depersonalization, depression, and physician turnover, as well as patient safety accidents. For sources and more information on clinician burnout, read our Clinician Burnout Report.

To help doctors free up their time to reduce stress and avoid burnout, healthcare providers should focus on increased patient education. Informed patients ask fewer and more pointed questions during appointement and can take steps to avoid uneccessary readmissions.

 

5. Patient Experience Improvements

Ongoing patient education improves self-efficacy and delivers better patient results by helping them adhere to medication and treatment regimens, identify abnormal symptoms, and decide what steps to take when issues arise. Each outcome enhanced by patient education also improves the patient experience (and HCAHPS scores) .

Pre-appointment education can help patients know what to expect and where to go, reducing uncertainty and anxiety. Post-appointment education can help patients recover properly with fewer complications. Across all stages of the patient journey, keeping patients informed and educated improves outcomes—from patient satisfaction to quality of life—the true purpose of value-based care.

Check out our blog on how to improve the patient experience to learn more.

Patient Education and Engagement Support Value-Based Care

Value-based care has required healthcare providers throughout the nation to prioritize patient education and patient engagement as strategic imperatives. To learn more about how a thoughtful, patient-centered communication strategy can provide ongoing patient education while enhancing the patient experience, download our white paper, Engaging Patients to Support Value-Based Care Initiatives.

Get the White Paper

 

Sources:

  1. The move to value accelerates in 2021, spurred by lack of fee-for-service payments during pandemic, Morse, S., Healthcare Finance, Dec. 23, 2020: healthcarefinancenews.com/news/move-value-accelerates-2021-spurred-lack-fee-service-payments-during-pandemic
  2. An Ounce of Prevention Is Still Worth a Pound of Cure, Especially in the Time of COVID-19, Hacker, K., et al., Preventing Chronic Disease, Vol. 18, E03, CDC, Jan. 2021: cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2021/pdf/20_0627.pdf
  3. Self-Management: A Comprehensive Approach to Management of Chronic Conditions, Anekwe, T., et al., American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), Dec. 7, 2018: ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302041r
  4. Preventable Readmissions Cost CMS $17 Billion, Reardon, S., RevCycleIntelligence, Jan. 13, 2015: revcycleintelligence.com/news/preventable-readmissions-cost-cms-17-billion
  5. Medicare Fines Half of Hospitals for Readmitting Too Many Patients, Rau, J., Kaiser Health News (KHN), Nov. 2, 2020: khn.org/news/medicare-fines-half-of-hospitals-for-readmitting-too-many-patients/
  6. Research Shows Shortage of More than 100,000 Doctors by 2030, Mann, S., Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Mar. 14, 2017: aamc.org/news-insights/research-shows-shortage-more-100000-doctors-2030