December 14, 2021

Smart Patient Engagement is Key to Minimizing Waste

“The need is urgent to bring U.S. health care costs into a sustainable range for both public and private payers. Commonly, programs to contain costs use cuts, such as reductions in payment levels, benefit structures, and eligibility. A less harmful strategy would reduce waste, not value-added care. The savings potentially achievable from systematic, comprehensive, and cooperative pursuit of even a fractional reduction in waste are far higher than from more direct and blunter cuts in care and coverage.”

That analysis by Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP and Andrew D. Hackbarth, MPhil is germane to patient care, but we would note that the need to increase efficiency applies to patient engagement as well. Rather than seeking cost reduction, seeking the right balance of cost and effectiveness that drives the best clinical and financial outcomes for the patient is the right model in healthcare.

Consider a thoughtful approach to minimizing waste: balancing costs with results

This begins with identifying the positive outcomes you want, such as more patients pre-registering and showing up for appointments and paying their bills in full whenever possible. Next, you need to know what’s working now to drive those results and, even more importantly, what isn’t. This insight makes it possible to replace ineffective engagement with a communication strategy that inspires the best results.

Here’s the tricky part: taking the time to see what’s working might lead to a reduction in costs, but not necessarily. In fact, your engagement costs could stay the same, but payments should steadily increase. In other words, your patient engagement investments will drive better outcomes without wasting resources on ineffective strategies that don’t deliver.

This requires data and intelligence, and a means to visualize how your engagement strategies are paying off in better results.

Think like an elite long-distance runner for maximum results

High performance runners have perfected the art of training that balances effort with optimum results. They understand that simply adding more miles to their weekly training regimen doesn’t necessarily lead to better results on race day. In fact, it could lead to diminishing returns due to exhaustion, stress fractures or more serious injuries that make competing impossible.

Instead, they balance easy runs and long runs with a careful mix of aerobic cross-training, body maintenance, dynamic stretching and strength workouts. Their goals to avoid injury and maximize performance might also include tactics like massage, icing, and, of course, proper hydration and nutrition. The combination and cadence of these tactics is different for every athlete, depending on his or her situation and physical limits.

That’s a good metaphor for engaging with your patients in a way that balances costs with results. As you’re looking at adding (or cutting) more modern—or more frequent—communication methods, it’s important to understand what’s right for each patient. There is no “one size fits all” in athletic training or patient engagement. The best approach is to use the right resources in the right combination and cadence for the best results, with a minimum of waste in the process.

Read more about how to individualize your patient engagement strategy to balance costs with results.