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Research shows measures to motivate
and educate patients may improve
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Hospitals save millions when patients manage themselves

by Carol Ko , Staff Writer
Hospitals may actually increase patient satisfaction and save money by letting patients help themselves. A report released in the February issue of the journal Health Affairs shows that encouraging patient self-care lowers costs, improves patient outcomes, and gives hospitals higher scores on patient satisfaction.

Health care spending accounts for over 17 percent of the gross domestic product at $2.7 trillion a year--roughly $8,000 a year per person--and is expected to reach 20 percent of GDP by 2021, according to government projections. In fact, U.S. health care spending dwarfs that of any other industrialized nation and continues to escalate at an unsustainable rate.

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The report, authored by eleven leaders of leading health care organizations such as Kaiser Permanente and Cleveland Clinic, argues that the right approach to health care overhaul involves encouraging patient autonomy, home health and care teams, and evidence-based best practices.

For example, Kaiser Permanente's Healthy Bones program, which identifies and treats patients who are at risk for osteoporosis and hip fractures, was able to reduce hip fracture rates by 30 percent in five years through a mix of patient education and home health care.

The report emphasizes the importance of utilizing innovative collaborative care models. At ThedaCare, a community health system based in Wisconsin, interdisciplinary care teams were assigned to each patient so they could come up with a self-care plan together. The program has reduced hospital lengths of stay, patient errors and overall cost.

The report also outlines opportunities to cut waste through evidence-based strategies. For example, one hospital saved an estimated $100 million in facility costs by making surgical scheduling practices more efficient, which resulted in fewer delays and surgery cancellations, and a more predictable flow of patients in the intensive care unit.

A growing body of evidence suggests that patients are more satisfied with their hospital experience when they are encouraged to play a greater role in their own health. A survey by Accenture finds that patients want more access to self-service options, with 90 percent of patients indicating that they want to refill prescriptions, book appointments and access medical records online.

Another Health Affairs study analyzing 33,000 patients in Minnesota found that the average health care costs of patients with more knowledge, skills and confidence were down 8 to 21 percent compared with less engaged patients.

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