Think about the last time you made a major purchase — a new computer, a smartphone, a car. If you are anything like me, you researched (over researched, my wife would say) the product. You checked out reviews at Consumer Reports, CNet or Car & Driver. You posted questions on Facebook. You spent hours grilling friends and family about their new toys. You went to 10 different stores to kick the tires to make sure it was the right fit for your needs and your budget. It's all a part of doing your due diligence, right?


Now think about the last time you (or a loved one) made a big health care decision. Again, if you are like me, you pulled up some information on WebMD, but generally, you took your doctors at their word and marched forward.

Why is it that we spend so much time dissecting which smartphone to buy, which carrier to use and how much data we need, yet we barely blink an eye when it comes to our health care?

A new report from the AHA's Committee on Research makes a strong case for changing that behavior. It advocates for greater communication between providers and, well, everyone else. And, it calls on hospitals to lead the charge.

"Engaging patients, families and communities has the potential to be a 'game changer' in the transformation of the health care system in the United States," the report states. "Hospitals and health care systems can serve as laboratories for developing, testing, learning and disseminating new engagement practices. The impact of this type of engagement and the role that hospitals can play in leading this transformative element of system design in their own communities are foundational for achieving the Triple Aim in health care."

The 53-page report, "Engaging Health Care Users: A Framework for Healthy Individuals and Communities," notes that there are several impediments to achieving an engaged user, including the current reimbursement model, professional culture and norms that tend to intimidate patients, and low health literacy.

But the report also offers a framework for starting this dialogue and case studies profiling how some leading providers have not just better engaged patients and communities, but made significant strides toward the Triple Aim.

For example:

  • Griffin Hospital, in Derby, Conn., "worked with nursing homes and home health agencies to standardize protocols and patient education materials to reduce readmissions. As a result, their readmissions fell from 15 percent to 7 percent during the course of the project."
  • At Emory Healthcare, Atlanta, patient and family advisors helped develop protocols for conducting bedside change-of-shift reports and served as instructors in training front-line staff. "Patient satisfaction increased with overall nursing care augmenting from the 41st to 78th percentile on the Press Ganey survey. Quality outcomes also improved; hospital-acquired pressure ulcers decreased from 8.15 percent to 2.5 percent."
  • Howard University Hospital, Washington, D.C., helped diabetics improve their self-care by providing personal health records to assist in monitoring clinical indicators.

With the seismic shift in payment policy already underway, creating these connections throughout the delivery system will become a matter of survival. Hospitals "must become more 'activist' in their orientation and move 'upstream' — that is, they must do more to engage patients earlier in the disease process," the report concludes.

Are you working at this strategy? If so, let me hear from you.