The February issue of Health Affairs
explores the burgeoning field of activating and engaging patients in their
health and health care. Studies show that more informed and empowered patients
have better health outcomes, and there is some evidence that they also have
lower health care costs.
One study featured this month
found that patients with the lowest level of "activation"—that is,
those most lacking in the skills and confidence to be actively engaged in their
health care—had average costs that were 8 %-21% higher compared with patients
with the highest level of activation.
Another article reports on how offering online health care for patients with
simple conditions saved money for a prominent Minnesota health plan. Launched
in 2010, "virtuwell" provides 24-hour online access, diagnosis, and
treatment (including prescriptions) by nurse practitioners for about 40 simple
conditions, such as sinus infections, urinary tract infections, and pink eye.
Private and public sector leaders also weigh in with their perspectives on
strategies to lower health care costs, improve quality, engage patients, and
enhance outcomes research.