Everyone wants better healthcare outcomes. That’s why millions of dollars are spent each year on medical resources. But are these dollars translating into better healthcare?
The reality is that more money spent doesn’t necessarily translate into better healthcare. Take, for instance, the United States. Spending in the U.S. outranks other developed countries. But health outcomes aren’t following the spending trend. The high expense of healthcare is making many question how to improve healthcare cost effectively.
The question healthcare needs to be asking is this - can we spend less while doing more? How can we best improve patient outcome?
1. Take care of clinicians
Patient outcomes are directly tied to clinicians. However, burnout rate among clinicians is at an all time high. One in three physicians are currently experiencing burnout.
With burnout becoming commonplace, healthcare needs to implement measures protecting the emotional, mental, and physical well-being of their clinicians. More than anything clinicians need help monitoring their mental and emotional health.
Many do not realize the effect of their workload on their well-being and practice. Over time, the exposure to trauma and administrative expectations takes a toll that many clinicians do not and cannot see.
These symptoms aren’t always recognized as burnout. They include (1) treating people like objects rather than people, (2) losing a sense of purpose, and (3) emotional fatigue. Burnout is hampering clinicians’ effectiveness and patient outcomes as a result.
With the constant sacrifice clinicians make for the betterment of others, it’s time someone does the same for them. Not just for the sake of clinicians, but for the sake of patient outcome and healthcare as a whole.
2. Offer health coaching to educate and engage patients
Patient outcomes won’t improve until they receive guidance for self-care. This is especially important in the case of chronic disease. Managing chronic illness is a day-by-day process.
Since clinicians are already stretched to their limits, someone needs to fill this gap. That’s why health coaches are a vital resource in today’s healthcare scene.
Trained health coaches guide patients in health and lifestyle decisions. Since they personally and regularly interact with patients, their advice is tailored to the immediate situation. Their role as a coach helps them monitor patient symptoms and track worsening situations.
They also act as support for doctors by freeing up valuable time. Patients contact coaches for advice about concerns rather than calling their doctor's office. Coaches can then guide patients toward self-management or to medical assistance.
Such personal knowledge of patient symptoms is nearly impossible in the traditional model of healthcare. But with health coaches bridging the gap, patient outcomes will improve.
3. Facilitate peer support
Coerced lifestyle changes rarely last in the long run. But change supported by a community enables patients to make the changes they need to reach their health goals. To improve patient outcomes, we need to be providing them with a community of co-fighters.
Unlike the other tools mentioned, peer support connects people battling the same health challenges to help each other. This help is bi-directional. It results in the helper being helped just as much the one needing advice.
In the case of diabetes, a supportive community has been linked to more hope in the daily management of symptoms among patients. It also results in patients using clinical services more effectively while improving self-management of symptoms.
4. Make care accessible anytime, anywhere
As healthcare stands right now, clinicians simply cannot provide comprehensive 24/7 care for patients. But with the use of technology, clinicians can monitor patient conditions without being physically present. Putting the right tools into the hands of patients (and clinicians) results in better outcomes.
Provide patient education
Patient education has often happened via printouts as patients leave the doctor's office or a followup call. Make education and resources about their health available anytime and anywhere so patients can access them from their smartphone or computer when it's convenient for them.
Enable a seamless connection between patient and clinician
Good telehealth systems make a seamless connection between clinic and patient. They allow patients to get on-the-go help while providing doctors with comprehensive data about patient health.
Telehealth also transcends geographical constraints. In a study conducted in Australia telehealth improved the outcomes of rural patients significantly by making healthcare accessible regardless of geographical and time restraints.
Offer online support
Online self-management tools and peer support also improves patient outcomes by making these features available 24/7. With easy access to support, education and advice patients are better equipped and more likely to take ownership of their health.
Companies like Melon provide patients with their coach, care-plan and support crew in their pocket providing anytime, anywhere access to an online health community that integrates with healthcare systems - making it a win for clinicians and patients alike.
5. Streamline communication
Communication directly impacts patient outcomes as well. The harder it is to contact clinicians, the less likely patients will try. There are two sides to this. Communication between patient and clinicians, and communication between clinicians.
Using forms of communication that patients are used to using in normal life makes it easier for them to follow through on health plans. Integrating communication systems like email, text message, and online communities to answer patients’ questions make it easier for patients to communicate with their care team.
The key is to eliminate wait time as a barrier to communication. If patients are put on hold or don’t get prompt email responses, they will likely stop using the platform.
Clinician to clinician communication needs to be accessible as well. With the high cognitive workload placed on clinicians, details can get lost in the communication process. One review showed that the leading cause of death of 16,000 hospital deaths was a breakdown in communication.
Clinicians need quick, easy ways to communicate with one another to offset interruptions during time with patients.
6. Be proactive, not reactive
Seventy-five percent of U.S. health expenditures are spent on chronic diseases. Diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are some of the most common. With a medical system that has traditionally rewarded reactive approaches, these diseases aren’t being prevented like they could be.
The result? Patients end up with conditions that could have been avoided while national spending increases. Healthcare needs to start embracing a proactive approach - encouraging patients to take ownership of their health BEFORE they face disease. If healthcare is looking for better patient outcomes, this is how to achieve it.
7. Make it personal
No two people are exactly the same, and neither are their health issues. That’s why a personalized approach to healthcare is necessary to improve patient outcomes.
To be proactive, patients need personalized advice for their specific situation. They need health advice to consider their background, socio-economic status, stress level, mental health, and the list goes on.
But as has already been discussed, most clinicians are already at their limit with patient loads and responsibilities. They need someone to come alongside and provide personalized plans for patient needs.
Ready to improve patient outcomes with tech-enabled human connection, scalable healthcare, and whole-person wellness? Book a meeting with a Melon Strategist today.