“We have not paid attention to patient education and patient responsibility and patient orientation. We haven’t paid attention nearly as much as other industries and we’ve suffered for it,” Tabler says.
“The typical family doctor in the U.S. has had the same inflexible hours that they had 75 or 80 years ago,” Tabler says. “In other industries, they’ve recognized that workers may need to come in on weekends, customers may need to come in at night. Look at physicians’ offices: They haven’t adapted to that.”
And in today’s changing healthcare environment, patient engagement is more important than ever. For instance, patients are not used to being rejected by their hospital or physician when seeking certain procedures. But through bundled payments and other reimbursement mechanisms being implemented by payers, healthcare providers will be penalized for ordering tests, procedures, and items that will be deemed unnecessary.
Hospitals generally haven’t done enough to assist patients after they leave the hospital to continue follow-ups and improve outcomes, and that has to change, Tabler says.
“We’re very passive with patients,” he says. “We deal with them pretty well while they are in the hospital, and then forget about them when they are gone. That’s not the way other industries work. You know, I’m in a hotel right now and from the time I made my reservation ... they’ve sent me an e-mail welcoming me, and I know when I leave there will be an e-mail waiting for me, asking how my stay was.”
Indeed, healthcare is investing in programs to promote patients’ involvement in their own care, saying the time is more crucial than ever. Strictly on a health basis, more young people are facing weight issues and diabetes, while others are confronting chronic conditions, which are just adding to patient care issues as well as costs. Industry stakeholders are also under pressure to adopt behaviors to improve outcomes and contain costs, and none is more integral to this process than patients.