There are also the varying levels of health literacy to consider. I had to ask the RN on the phone to clarify a few things for me, including the scientific name of the antiseptic, which she had spat out as if it were a common item for the everyday person. Had I not felt empowered to ask, I would not have understood or followed that particular instruction.
Spacey, disinterested, and low-health literate patients are out there, in abundance. Some patients do the best they can and still fall short. Others simply 'go with the flow,' essentially relinquishing responsibility for their care to others.
Improving communication with these types of patients is something healthcare marketers should focus on. And it's more than just good medicine—it can improve costs.
A study in the February issue of Health Affairs looked at the role that patients play in determining health-related outcomes. Researchers found that patients who were more knowledgeable, skilled, and confident about managing their day-to-day health had healthcare costs that were 8% lower in the base year and 21% lower in the next year compared to patients who lacked this type of confidence and skill.
These savings held true even after adjusting for patient differences, such as demographic factors and the severity of illnesses.
Furthermore, engaged patients with the same chronic illness had lower healthcare costs than their less-engaged counterparts; less-engaged asthma patients had 21% higher costs than the most engaged patients. With high blood pressure, the cost differential was 14%.
"There is ample evidence that the behaviors people engage in and the health care choices they make have a very clear effect on both health and costs, positively and negatively," the study authors wrote.