Healthcare News & Insights

Can patient navigators lead to better engagement?

As the healthcare industry focuses more on providing high-quality, patient-centered care, effective engagement with patients is more important than ever. Thankfully, patient navigators can help. 

177863138Many industry professionals agree that getting patients engaged in their own health is crucial for improving care quality, reducing readmissions and lowering needless expenditures.

But doctors don’t have a lot of time to educate patients about maintaining their health these days.

As healthcare improvements reduce recovery times for complex procedures, physicians only have a small window to give patients the information they need to manage their care post-discharge. Chronic illnesses also present challenges since symptoms often require constant upkeep, which some patients may feel they don’t have the time to do.

The patient engagement issue is crucial as hospitals across the nation work toward improving care coordination with other healthcare providers to best serve patients. One possible solution is the use of patient navigators to help hospitals educate patients and improve care-quality, according to FierceHealthcare.

Leading the way for better care and engagement

Patient Navigators are hospital staff members whose primary duty is to contact and work with patients to monitor their care outside the hospital. Or, as a separate FierceHealthcare articles phrases it, “a professional (clinical or lay person) dedicated to individualized patient care.”

Geisinger Health System of Danville, PA, has used patient navigators to improve multiple areas of their operations.

Generally, Geisinger has used navigators to reduce readmissions through follow-up care. The navigators contact patients to review medications, answer questions about recovery and watch out for possible red flag symptoms that may require follow-up appointments to address. Geisinger also assigns navigators for heart-failure patients so they have consistent assistance and a person they can turn to for help throughout their care.

As a result of the navigation program, the PA health system has seen a 27.5% reduction in acute care admissions and a 34% reduction in 30-day readmissions.

Other facilities have used navigation programs to cut down on no-show appointment rates, saving the hospital about $150 billion from missed appointments.

Most important, though, navigator programs have helped hospitals get their patients more involved in their healthcare. Not only has this reduced spending, but it has helped patients better vocalize their needs. Overall, the programs have gone a long way toward improving care-quality and helping the hospitals avoid readmission penalties from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

In addition to using patient navigators, hospitals can use the American Hospital Association’s recent guide for increasing patient and family engagement. The guide advises hospitals to:

  • Develop clear goals for patient engagement programs
  • Determine improvement opportunities by collecting feedback from leaders, staff and patients
  • Prioritize goals and plan how you’ll empower staffers to meet those goals
  • Monitor progress by finding measures to track through shared data, and
  • Provide ongoing implementation support, such as information resources or other tools.

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