By Murray Brozinsky, President and Chief Strategy Officer, Conversa
Managing health outcomes is a complex task that requires collaboration between patients and care providers. Improving outcomes is one of the main objectives of the quadruple aim, an industry-wide strategy originally developed as the triple aim by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement and expanded upon by healthcare organizations. The quadruple aim’s objectives are improving the health of patient populations, enhancing the care experience, reducing the per capita cost of healthcare and helping clinicians attain joy in their work.
First things first: improving the health of populations. To achieve significant population health improvements, we must contend with some significant hurdles:
- Nearly half of American adults suffer from more than one chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease.
- One in five patients experience an adverse event—a side effect from medication, high levels of discomfort, an infection, etc.—within three weeks post-procedure or post-discharge from the hospital, requiring hospital readmission. Two-thirds of these adverse events could be prevented if clinicians knew what was happening after the patient left the hospital.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest annual mortality report, life expectancy in the U.S. overall fell in 2017 for the second time in three years. Some of the factors contributing to the declining rate include unhealthy weight and diet, lack of regular exercise, and alcohol and drug use.
Effective population health management requires continually risk-stratifying patients. For example, care providers want to promote healthy habits among largely healthy people to prevent them from becoming prediabetic, and they want to collect biometric readings from people with diabetes and have an ongoing discussions with them about their treatment. This interaction needs to happen with some frequency, because a low-risk patient today may become a rising risk or high-risk patient tomorrow. If you aren’t engaged in ongoing conversations with patients, then you’re missing your chance to help them better manage their health. You are waiting around for people to get sick, and then dealing with the problem.
Building a successful partnership to improve health outcomes requires continuous conversations between patients and providers—at scale. Intelligent patient engagement tools, such as Conversation AI platforms and chatbots, are especially well-suited in aiding the efforts to build these partnerships. These tools spur conversations with patients that help them form healthy habits, manage chronic conditions and communicate issues that can result in early interventions, avoiding adverse events.
Research shows that smartphones are expected to continue expanding as our core connection to our experience of healthcare. More than half of patients (54%) and physicians (56%) expect smartphones to become their primary touchpoint with the health system over the next 10 years, meaning chatbots on mobile phones are an ideal tool for improving health outcomes.
These automated tools help risk-stratify patients in real-time, automating care for those who are low risk, and escalating those patients requiring immediate attention to the appropriate care team member—with data providing context about the situation. Similarly, these virtual check-ins can verify that a patient is compliant with their treatment and not experiencing any adverse effects. This information can also be useful in determining the best allocation of hospital resources.
Improving lifestyle habits and helping patients and providers manage chronic conditions could address a tragic, but largely avoidable, reality: Nearly 50% of deaths in the U.S. are premature and preventable. Of those premature deaths, 80% are due to tobacco use, diet and lack of exercise.
Effecting change won’t be easy, but the episodic nature of delivering care after a patient gets sick isn’t working. Whether a patient is well now, suffering a chronic condition or recuperating at home after being released from the hospital after surgery, our healthcare system needs to apply technologies to create ongoing conversations. These conversations can collect data that both patients and care providers can use to be more effective and more efficient in the delivery of care that results in improved health and well-being.