How Patient Activation Connects Healthcare to Patients Wherever They Are

March 30, 2020 John Reeves

The healthcare industry in the United States is undergoing a major transformation, moving from a transactional view of medicine to a longer-term and more cost-effective model of patient activation.

And these days, a better, more proactive approach to healthcare is more important than ever.

Patient activation is the combination of patients' knowledge, skills, and ability to manage their own healthcare. When patients take the lead in managing their healthcare, outcomes improve. Patients become healthier, and the total costs associated with patient care decline.

To encourage patient activation, healthcare providers and extended team members have to engage and capture a patient’s interest in new and creative ways. Old methods of engaging patients, such as web portals and visits to doctor's offices, aren't continuous and automatic. They depend on "special occasions." In contrast, patient activation is an ongoing model for engagement.

A healthcare organization such as a hospital or clinic can use mobile technology and new processes tied to healthcare IT systems to create new types of patient experiences. They can meet patients where they live – in their homes, in their workplaces, and on the go. They can monitor patient health and deliver recommendations in real time, addressing minor issues before they become major ones.

Ultimately, this new model for engaging patients will cause healthcare organizations to rethink and rework “patient journeys” – the how, where, when, and why of how patients access care.

The Boomi Platform helps provider organizations build these connections, develop new patient journeys, implement automated workflows, and transform their IT architectures to make patient activation a reality.

Let’s take a closer look at patient activation and what it means for healthcare organizations and the patients they serve.

To learn more about how Boomi can help your organization with its patient activation initiatives, contact a Boomi specialist today.

How Patient Activation Evolved From Patient Engagement

Patient activation is the next evolutionary step from an earlier model of patient interactions known as patient engagement. Behind both ideas is the goal of going beyond the transactional, hospital-, and clinic-centered approach that has been the norm of traditional healthcare.

In that model, patients were largely passive participants in standard, procedure-based encounters. For example, they visited a primary care physician and were informed of an ailment or condition. Or they went to a regional clinic or hospital, received treatment, and went home.

Billing for these interactions followed the visits. Patient portals, which provide little more than an electronic bulletin board, allowed patients and providers to review an invoice or check results from a previous visit. 

In this 20th-century model, patients depended on the advice and directions of physicians and nurses. Aside from billing statements delivered by mail, information was typically exchanged in person. (This is still done today in many places.) Healthcare was largely transactional, centering on things that could be billed for: visits and prescriptions. Visits were special occasions when doctors and patients interacted face to face, with family members perhaps present. Knowledge was shared only as needed.

One of the most obvious problems with this model is that about 90 percent of factors that affect a patient’s health lie outside the clinic or hospital. These factors include genetics, environment, behavior, interests, and psychological motivations. Transactional healthcare models often failed to account for these factors. Diagnoses and treatment plans generally overlooked them. Only providers working with special incentives or funded by the most costly treatment plans had the resources and creativity to take them into account.

In many cases – whether because of comorbidities, patient risks from unknown exposures, or provider concerns over reimbursement or legal risks — care ends up being delivered unevenly. Almost all care delivery systems were designed for serving customers. And like all good service organizations, healthcare organizations have repeat customers.

But with incomplete control of patients' risk factors and a cautionary approach to financial risks, the transactional approach to medicine delivered less than optimal results, both in terms of patient health and overall healthcare costs. 

Incomplete information is another problem with the 20th-century transactional model. Healthcare IT systems were (and remain) disconnected. In many hospitals, departments might have separate records for the same patient and lack an easy way of sharing those records, or even be aware that they should be shared.

Since IT systems developed in a free market, most are differentiated in some way to establish competitive value. These market-driven differentiations perpetuate the problem of workflow and data silos in healthcare. Connecting systems to one another was a low priority, and opening them up to patients seemed impossible and – before the age of social media and mobile apps – even bizarre.

Much of this is still the case today. Systems are disconnected, and so are the professionals and patients who use them.

Patient Activation Connects and Informs Patients and Improves Healthcare Outcomes

Patient activation provides a new path forward for healthcare in the United States and around the world. Using connected apps of all kinds, a patient system can collect and deliver many more types of data (e.g., graphical data in a mobile app), more frequently (e.g., 24/7 in a mobile app), and to greater effect (e.g., a timely alert to take medication).

To learn more about how Boomi can help your healthcare organization modernize and transform its services, contact a Boomi specialist today.

It can connect multiple healthcare IT systems and a patient's own applications (such as Google Calendar) and call attention to what might otherwise go unnoticed. Compared with how engagement was done in the past and is still mostly done today, a patient-activated system can:

  • Collect activity and health-status information, such as pulse, body temperature, and miles walked, all in near real time.
  • Establish baselines for anomalies and notify both patients and providers when anomalies occur.
  • Take advantage of visual data and real-time connections to data services to help patients adhere to treatment plans, for example, enabling patients to scan grocery UPC codes to discover whether particular foods fit their physician's dietary recommendations.
  • Make it easy for patients to submit questions to healthcare providers anywhere, anytime.
  • Take advantage of chatbots for conversational queries to knowledge bases and other data sources.
  • Connect patients to ride-sharing applications to ensure they can reach healthcare facilities easily.

People aren’t patients all the time, but patients are people all the time. A major advantage of patient activation over earlier models of healthcare is that it can address patients engaged in everyday activities in everyday locations.

With the old patient engagement model, patients usually interact with providers only episodically. Risky situations could develop between doctor visits. Preventive measures that could stave off problems require oversight, active data collection, and insightful processes for correlating data and notifying caregivers and patients alike.

Patient activation, by embedding healthcare monitoring and communications in our everyday lives, makes it easier for caregivers to identify conditions before they become critical.

More Engaging Healthcare Experiences

Healthcare delivery organizations need to deliver more-engaging experiences for patients – experiences that go beyond the rote, episodic, and transactional experiences of 20th-century medicine.

These organizations should continue to capitalize on their existing 24/7 venues (hospitals, clinics, and so on), which collect health information and serve as gateways for clinical experiences. But they need to interact with patients beyond the person-to-person encounters that take place in these venues.

By the time a person engages with a healthcare provider, it may be too late to save money or provide the services required. The opportunity to sit down and log on to a portal to determine the best course of action has passed.

Now, with a few swipes and taps on a device or smartphone, patients can be activated to take charge of their healthcare. They can follow treatment plans, get answers to questions, and use apps that report results automatically to providers, improving outcomes and reducing costs. Caregivers can engage with patients while they're still healthy, before they need care.

But to implement this model for patient activation, healthcare IT organizations need to evolve application and data infrastructures.

How Boomi Helps With Patient Activation

The unified Boomi Platform helps healthcare organizations connect people, data, and systems to make patient activation a reality. And it does so within a single intelligent, flexible, and scalable platform. Boomi offers:

  • Rapid integration of systems and services
    Boomi’s low-code development environment accelerates integrations 3X to 4X, so healthcare organizations (HCOs) can connect more systems more quickly and cost-effectively. Because Boomi offers so many ready-to-use connectors, HCOs will need custom-development work only for features and systems that are truly unique to their environment.
  • API lifecycle management services
    Whether accessing mobile APIs, Google Maps APIs, or APIs from healthcare systems, a patient activation system requires an easy-to-use platform to securely access, publish, and manage APIs. The Boomi platform makes that easy, again with low-code tools that simplify and streamline API management.
  • IoT support
    The Internet of Things is revolutionizing healthcare with everything from smartphones to highly specialized Internet-connected devices. The Boomi platform supports all these IoT devices and enables data integrations and transformations to run at the network edge. With Boomi, HCOs don’t need to provision separate integrations and data governance for IoT. Instead, the Boomi platform handles integration and data governance for all on-premises, cloud, and IoT processes.
  • Workflow automation
    Using Boomi Flow’s drag-and-drop interface, HCO IT teams can quickly and easily build workflows that support patient activation. For example, they can collect lab results, then share them securely with patients and providers. They can accelerate billing processes by automatically routing documents to wherever they’re needed. They can automate intake processes for patients, as well as onboarding processes for staff – especially important for home-nursing teams with regular turnover. And they can replace almost any paper-based process with something faster, more reliable, and more efficient.

Using Boomi, healthcare organizations can evolve their IT architectures from the static, siloed data sources and web portals of the patient engagement era to the agile, mobile-centric world of patient activation. The benefits of this evolution include improved health outcomes, better patient care, and lower costs.

Healthcare organizations shouldn't feel daunted by this evolution. They can tackle a patient activation project in phases, setting up integrations and connections for one system, and then another, and then another, using Boomi Flow to automate processes along the way.

With each connection, healthcare organizations will make it easier to support patient activation, benefiting patients, providers, and payers alike.

Conclusion

The healthcare industry is undergoing a major transformation, moving from a transactional view of medicine to a longer-term view and cost-effective model of patient activation.

The Boomi Platform offers a comprehensive and flexible technology for connecting people, data, and devices, reaching patients where they live. It can help providers transform healthcare from an occasional, transactional event to a way of living with the informed guidance of healthcare professionals just a tap or a click away.

To learn more about how Boomi can help your organization with its patient activation initiatives, contact a Boomi specialist today.

About the Author

John Reeves is Boomi’s healthcare solutions evangelist.

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