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    Survey report reveals how patients believe providers can drive better outcomes

    Many Americans did not see their health improve during the past year. In addition, many patients and providers believe disappointing outcomes underscore a need for quality improvement, according to a pair of studies.

    A report on the two studies, “Examining Care Quality,” from West, a provider of technology-driven communications, also reveals that providers have opportunities to increase their focus on prevention and wellness, and that by doing so they may be able to more actively engage patients and drive them to adopt healthy behaviors and participate in activities that would improve their health.

    “We wanted to get a better understanding of how well healthcare is meeting the needs of patients,” says Allison Hart, vice president, marketing, communications at West. “In short, we wanted to see if healthcare is helping patients get and stay healthy, and if not, learn what patients and providers believe is necessary to achieve better outcomes.”

    West conducted the pair of online surveys in the spring of 2017 to gather insights from patients and providers. The patient survey captured information from 1,010 adult patients in the U.S. The second survey collected viewpoints from 138 healthcare professionals.

    “Both patients and providers are frustrated with America’s healthcare system,” says Hart. “The cost of healthcare has risen, but neither patients nor providers feel that cost increases have translated into higher quality care. Unfortunately, most Americans feel their health did not improve during the past year. For these reasons, twice as many patients say they feel frustrated compared to optimistic about healthcare.”

    In general, patients put a lot of the responsibility for their personal health onto providers, according to Hart. In fact, the study revealed that 83% of Americans hold their healthcare providers responsible for their well-being. Patients indicate that they are receptive to direction from their providers—80% of patients say they would get preventive screenings if their healthcare provider scheduled them. Not only that, patients want their healthcare team to be more proactive about encouraging wellness and prevention.

    “Currently, a lot of patients feel their providers are too reactive,” Hart says.

    Nearly two-thirds of patients believe their provider is more attentive to treating illnesses rather than preventing them. Regardless of whether that is the case, it is clear that patients expect providers to demonstrate a more convincing commitment to prevention.

    Quality is top priority

    “Patients and providers agree that quality is a top priority,” Hart says. “However, this study found that most providers don’t think patients are getting the best possible care, and healthcare consumers are in the market for better care. It suggests that both patients and providers could be more committed to prevention and wellness, and that providers have opportunities to drive improved healthcare quality and outcomes by focusing more on prevention.

    “Managed care executives are tasked with ensuring patients are well served and that healthcare organizations function in a way that allows for financial success. In the age of outcome-based payments, these individuals know they need to focus on quality initiatives so their teams can deliver the best care and outcomes. This study highlights quality issues and solutions for managed care executives,” she says.

    Many patients acknowledge that they fail to make healthy choices in their daily lives, according to the study. “Not only do patients feel they could do a better job when it comes to exercising and eating healthy, they also admit that they don’t always get recommended preventive tests and screenings,” Hart says. “Providers know that patients are not excelling in the area of prevention. Only six percent of medical professionals would give their patients an ‘A’ grade for practicing wellness and preventing illness, yet 59% would give their patients a grade of ‘C’ or below. What providers need to understand is that by better supporting patients, they may be able to change how patients participate in prevention for the better.”

    Preventive care: Patient obstacles

    Cost, lack of awareness, forgetfulness, uncertainty about appointment scheduling, and reactive behaviors are obstacles patients struggle with that deter them from utilizing preventive and wellness services, according to the study.

    “Medical teams can do a lot to help patients overcome those obstacles,” Hart says. “Providers can educate, engage and activate patients by leveraging technology-enabled communications. This could mean that providers send patients messages to let them know when they are due for a preventive test, or help them understand what preventive services they are eligible to receive at no cost.”

    Patients believe that if their provider pushed them to make certain changes, it would lead to better outcomes, according to the study.

    “Most providers and healthcare organizations already have appointment reminder technology in place they can use to deliver personalized messages to patients about the services they need and how they can take steps to stay healthy,” Hart says. “Providers may be able to have a greater impact on patients’ outcomes if they learn to use that technology as a tool to educate patients and encourage participation in preventive care.”

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