The 3 Things You Need To Drive Lower Costs and Better Patient Outcomes
US healthcare has been struggling to course correct for sometime now. Skyrocketing costs, poor patient outcomes for a developed country, and low patient engagement are a recipe for a system that just keeps getting sicker and sicker.
To add to the complexity, it seems like just about everyone out there has a “fix” - it’s all about managing the disease, they say. It’s about becoming more efficient, another says. It’s about primary care, says another.
The problem with these approaches is that they don’t solve the actual problem.
You see, healthcare is actually sick care. We are really quite good at treating complex conditions and curing diseases that before were thought incurable.
However what we aren’t good at is treating the conditions of life...helping people avoid getting sick in the first place. And that’s a problem.
This approach limits revenue streams to disease only. It puts the responsibility for care solely on the shoulders of clinicians. It leaves patients in the dark, out of the loop, and not accountable for their own health.
But when we reframe the conversation, when we flip it on its head and work backwards from the patient, a whole different story emerges.
There is a way to engage patients in their own care to lower costs and improve outcomes - and it starts with a simple three-part framework.
1. Leverage the power of human connection and augmented intelligence to promote behavior change.
In traditional healthcare, patients are siloed - they talk to their clinician - their primary care provider and maybe a nurse, but outside of those interactions, they are on their own.
And yet study after study has shown that without human connection, patients struggle to make the changes they need to make for their health.
So we asked ourselves the question, “what if patients had a place to interact with others who had walked the same road, a place where they could ask questions, offer and receive encouragement, and find support?”
That resulted in the Melon community - a place that does all of that. As participants engage with other humans, they better engage in their own health.
Take the example of Jason, a participant who came to us on the recommendation of his primary care doctor. Jason had experienced an injury to his knee that stopped him from being active, playing with his two girls, and getting out to play rugby with his friends.
Overtime, his inactivity and some poor habits that had crept into his lifestyle caused weight gain which led to high blood pressure. Jason knew something had to change - he didn’t feel well and he was missing out on things he loved.
When he joined Melon’s metabolic program, he didn’t believe he would actually finish the program. He didn’t like the idea of making sweeping changes to his lifestyle because he knew they just wouldn’t stick, but he decided to give it a try anyway because he needed to find his way back to a healthier life.
What he discovered through both his coach and the support of the community is that he didn’t need huge changes to make a difference. He just needed small, sustainable steps that kept him moving in the right direction.
He committed to his coach and his community that he would do one thing a day that put him on the path to a healthy lifestyle. It started small with doing one thing active every day, and then he moved to the changes he feared the most - food. He didn’t want to give up his soda and snack foods.
Eventually, he discovered, however, that green tea was “his drug,” not soda anymore and that other small swaps were actually much less difficult to make than he originally thought.
The community proved a huge part of his success. He came in motivated to make changes, and one of his drivers was being able to help others in his community.
The combination of coach, community, and self-management helped him lose 24 pounds in sixteen weeks - all from small lifestyle changes and food swaps, no crash dieting or ridiculous exercise routines.
He’s now walking his daughters to school and slowly getting back into rugby. His doctors have also given him the go-ahead for surgery to repair his previous injury, something they said they couldn’t do until he lost weight.
His biggest accomplishment, though? That he actually finished the program. He didn’t believe he would, but his community and his coach kept him on track. Human connection is powerful.
2. Extend support beyond the clinical setting.
Healthcare has also failed to serve clinicians - they struggle with burnout, mental and physical exhaustion, and patient quotas that limit how much they can engage with each patient.
And when they suffer, their patients suffer. They may have to wait for an appointment, right diagnosis, the right treatment.
So again, we asked ourselves, what would it look like if clinicians had an added support person on their crew to answer patient questions, engage with them regularly, and keep them on track to meet their health goals?
The result? Non-clinical, scaleable healthcare via health coaches who act as the frontline of a patient’s care crew. They schedule regular times to connect and chat with the patient to answer questions, catch potential problems before they become major (and costly), and reduce strain on clinicians and their staff.
A client we worked with in long term disease management struggled to help their patients with chronic conditions self-manage. Clinicians only had so much time they could spend with each patient - for instance, doctors had 15 minute slots and only saw the patient 1, maybe 2 times a month.
Nurses would follow up with the patients, but they lacked data to see which patients needed more intervention and which patients were doing well.
Their practices offered classes for patients to come, get educated, and have the tools they needed to take care of their own health. The problem? Many patients couldn’t attend because classes were limited to clinician working hours - 9 to 5 on business days when many of the people who really needed the classes were working.
As a result, patients often only had printouts of education on their disease, what they remembered from their chat with their doctor, and occasional follow ups with their nurse.
Enter Melon. We worked with them to deliver a consumer experience that took the burden of education off clinicians, gave them the data they needed to provide the best kind of care, and gave patients access to care, support, and education that wasn’t limited by time and place.
Now clinicians can rest assured that when a patient leaves a 15 minute doctor appointment, they will have the tools they need to engage in their own health. Health coaches along with the health community keep them on track to meet their goals. Nurses can see which patients aren’t engaging in the digital program to help them find a solution that works better for them so they can get healthier, and the organization can better track their population’s progress overall.
An added bonus? Patients of all ages have benefited from the program. Younger patients adapt naturally to the digital experience while older patients have mentioned that they love the anytime, anywhere access as well as community support.
Not only is the cost-per-patient much lower than their old system, but now clinicians have a more efficient way to equip themselves with knowledge about their patients and make sure each patient is educated and empowered to self-manage.
3. Drive better outcomes with a whole person approach to wellness.
In traditional disease management, a hyper-focus on the disease ends up missing important symptoms of co-morbidities and mental health issues. This approach tends to be like putting out fires after they gain traction instead of finding ways from preventing them from happening in the first place.
For the organization we mentioned above that helped patients with chronic conditions get healthier, this whole-person approach was part of what drew them to Melon.
They realized that mental health comes hand-in-hand with many chronic conditions because long-term disease affects just about every aspect of a patient’s life. As they fight what seems like an uphill battle to keep diabetes or heart disease in check and try to live healthier, depression and anxiety can set in, leading to a further decline in their health.
Melon’s approach to give patients whole-person care is two-fold. Our health coaches, on the one hand, check in regularly on patients and can issue mental health screenings if they feel they are needed. They also act as the frontline for patients to ask health questions, making sure they get the right care when they need it.
On the other hand, the Melon Health community offers a place for patients to find support and combat isolation. For many patients, this is their favorite part - they no longer feel disconnected and like no one around them can relate to them. They have a safe place they can go, a judgment free zone, to ask questions and get help.
Engage your patients the right way.
Your patients want and need an experience that puts them at the center. When they self-engage, they’re more likely to meet their health goals which, in turn, lowers your organization’s costs, lowers their out-of-pocket costs, and improves their overall health.
Are you ready for healthcare transformation? Download our 5-Step Roadmap.