What is the ROI of patient engagement?

Patient engagement has been shown to result in improved healthcare outcomes for the patient; however, how does engaging with your patients and their families help your practice? What is the return on investment (ROI) of patient engagement for you as an independent physician?

In discussing the benefits of patient engagement, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) says that “Patient engagement provides big benefits for your practice and your patients. Those benefits include better:

  • Communication
  • Care
  • Outcomes”

The benefits of patient engagement, for the patient and the practice, result from the provider giving patients access to their clinical information, which empowers them to increase engagement in their own healthcare thus improving their health outcomes. In addition, ONC explains, “the ability of individuals to easily and securely access and use their health information electronically serves as one of the cornerstones of nationwide efforts to increase patient and family engagement and advance person-centered health.”

What does all this mean in terms of ROI for the independent practice? ROI essentially determines the value gained from a specific effort, after deducting the cost of the investment. Pure financial ROI does not measure the non-monetary payoffs of such efforts, though, such as the improved satisfaction of the patient.

ROI in healthcare is often measured using the costs of investments such as health information technology, including electronic health records (EHRs), new equipment, and office tools for the practice. ROI can be measured for patient engagement as well, particularly as many of these financial investments are designed to further the positive and productive interactions with the patient.

It is particularly important for the practice’s ROI to engage patients in their own healthcare, so that they understand clearly what needs to be post-visit, including how to take medications and how to be proactive about getting and staying healthy. Research has shown that many patients lack a true understanding of their own conditions and how to continue their care beyond the office visits. This can be the result of the provider not giving the information the patient needs or not ensuring that the patient understands the information.

Patients may also be overwhelmed or simply lack confidence in their ability to make the right choices themselves. In particular, those with lower levels of health literacy can find it challenging to follow the instructions they are given during the visits, on caring for themselves and adhering to treatment regimens.

The ROI of patient engagement is realized when the provider takes steps to ensure that patients have a full and true understanding of their conditions, of preventive measures, and of follow-up instructions. In fact, there have been several studies on the effects of actively engaging patients with chronic disease. These studies have found that those patients experienced significant mortality reductions compared to a control group.

The studies revealed a higher level of health and well-being as fostered by engaging patients to collaborate with their provider for more properly managed care. The act of engagement is seen as a partnership rather than the provider simply dictating what the patient should do, which can also result in the patient’s more active participation. This partnership:

  • Helps make better medical decisions
  • Educates patients about how to stay healthy and manage conditions
  • Develops systems and supports to activate patients
  • Sustains patient interest in their ongoing care.

The resulting ROI can be seen in a measurable reduced use of healthcare resources, reducing the costs of care, as well as improved outcomes for the patient and for the independent practice.