In theory, improving patient engagement in health care is a goal of just about every health care provider. In practice, though, hospital executives, physicians and other providers are besieged by the mandates of health reform, Medicare reimbursement reductions and major changes in the works as to how care is paid for and measured.
As a result, health care industry executives and policymakers may have put their patient engagement efforts into low gear or on hold altogether. [New York-Presbyterian is a notable exception; more on that later].
With that in mind, officials for the Lucian Leape Institute, part of the National Patient Safety Foundation, convened a roundtable that produced a report describing 17 recommendations to better engage patients and as a result improve health care safety.
The institute released the recommendations as a call to action to address the urgent need of keeping the industry focused on patient safety. The industry "has turned more to survival concerns and away from safety and that sort of thing," said Lucian Leape, chairman of the institute. [See a video interview in which Leape describes the NPSF's report on improving health care worker safety.]
"What we're saying is we can't let safety take a back seat," Leape said. "These new arrangements are really not going to work, and safety is not going to be advanced, unless patients are involved," he said.
That makes great sense, but after Leape told me that a major obstacle to getting patients engaged in their care is the health care culture, I better understood his concern. A hospital's culture doesn't change on a dime, even when leadership is pushing for it. And if a hospital's leadership isn't committed to patient engagement, then it is likely a lost cause for that particular organization.
Patient engagement is far from a lost cause at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, which has demonstrated a commitment to patient engagement, much of it using patient computer tablets. My H&HN colleague Marty Stempniak described the hospital's efforts as part of a series on the subject earlier this year.
New York-Presbyterian this week pushed even harder by holding a hackathon in the name of improving patient engagement. The hackathon, an organized computer software programming collaboration, sought new technological approaches for bringing patients together with each other and the hospital. The event was organized as a competition, and the winning team, which received $50,000 for its effort, devised a platform that would allow inpatients to socialize online together. They could connect with patients that have a common interest, play games, instant message and video chat. The second-place team won $25,000 and third got $10,000.
Hospital officials plan to meet soon to decide how much and which parts of the winning proposals will actually be adopted, said Helen Kotchoubey, corporate director of information services focusing on patient engagement.
Kotchoubey said that it was difficult to choose winners, given the high quality of the entries. For example, one of the non-winning entries created a game like atmosphere in which the users competed by completing health-related behaviors.
"We could only choose three winners, but there was merit in a lot of the other submissions as well," she said.
That's great for New York-Presbyterian, but what other hospitals are still pushing hard to engage patients and how are they doing it? If you know of one or work for one, feel free to comment below, or contact me via email, Twitter or Google+.