Intermountain Healthcare Determined to Diminish Patient Disengagement Divide

Thursday, November 5th, 2015
This post was written by Patricia Donovan

One in three healthcare consumers are disengaged from self-care, prevention and health IT, explained Intermountain Healthcare's Tammy Richards, corporate director of patient and clinical engagement.

Dismayed by national dips in patient engagement, satisfaction and health literacy, among other industry currents, Intermountain Healthcare convened a patient engagement steering committee composed of its highest level leaders.

What emerged was a strategic six-point patient engagement framework that not only has transformed patient care by the Salt Lake City-based organization but also has fostered a climate of shared accountability throughout the not-for-profit health system.

In a dramatic example of the framework’s potential, Tammy Richards, corporate director of patient and clinical engagement at Intermountain Healthcare, described how one Intermountain ER nurse, using newly acquired engagement skills, emotionally and personally connected with Harold, an alcoholic, disenfranchised frequent ER utilizer who previously had only reacted in an angry, abusive fashion.

“We changed, and Harold changed, and this is really what patient engagement is about: genuinely connecting with individuals, understanding their story and then providing them with the tools, electronic or personal, to heal or hopefully stay healthy,” Ms. Richards said during A Patient Engagement Framework: Intermountain Healthcare’s Approach for a Value-Based System, an October 2015 webinar now available for replay.

In presenting the six key program tenets, Ms. Richards underscored how her organization’s multilayered approach supports the mission of Intermountain Healthcare: Helping people live the healthiest lives possible.

Intermountain was particularly disturbed by Deloitte’s finding that one in three healthcare consumers are disengaged, Ms. Richard explained. “[The disengaged] are reporting less desire for care, less commitment to preventive action, less interest in technology and other solutions, and they are less financially prepared,” she said.

That critical data point ignited Intermountain’s efforts to reengage and engage its consumers, she added.

She shared highlights from the six-point engagement framework, including the following:

  • Incorporation of patient and family perspectives into the planning, delivery and evaluation of healthcare;
  • Designation of a staff member as the system’s health literacy coordinator;
  • Application of meaningful technology that spans the engagement framework;
  • Formation of workgroups and work streams dedicated to health literacy, engagement technology and patient experience that report to the steering committee; and
  • Better-timed offering of care decision aids to patients.

Although technology is often touted as the answer to patient engagement, Ms. Richards cautioned against the employment of too many tools to engage patients. “Historically, we’ve created chaos with systems and programs that have no interoperability. This is certainly an issue from an industry perspective; it’s also an issue within a hospital or within a system.”

With its engagement framework in place, Intermountain will continue to explore new methods of creating a seamless, integrated care experience for its patients, so that it may better serve its Harolds, its chronically ill, and even its pediatric populations, Ms. Richards concluded.

“We know that we’re going to fulfill our mission and it will be a constant journey. We know that our mission of helping people live the healthiest lives possible is within our grasp.”

Click here for an interview with Tammy Richards.

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