8/19/2021

In the Age of Chronic Conditions, Patient Education Is Crucial

Healthwise Communications Team

Six in ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease, and 4 in 10 have two or more.1

Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.1

More than 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes.2

Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases cause 1 in 3 deaths in the United States.3

Looking at these numbers, it’s clear we are no longer in the age where physicians triage single, one-time health problems that are wrapped up in a single visit. Medicine used to be about treating patients when they came into the doctor’s office or hospital and then not worrying about them after they left.

 

Why patient education is so critical now

We are now in the age of metabolic syndrome, a group of five conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include high blood pressure, high blood glucose (sugar), large waist circumference or “apple-shaped body, low levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood, and high levels of triglyceride. In this era, health issues are lifelong. They require monitoring and managing beyond the walls of the health system, and the choices and actions of patients in their daily life directly impact their health and condition.

A provider spends an average of three hours a year face-to-face with a patient. And, unlike the doctors of yesteryear who made house calls, today’s providers give most of that care within the clinic’s walls. That leaves 8,757 hours where clinicians can’t directly impact the decisions patients make that affect their health. In an ideal world, doctors could tell their patients what to do, and patients would do it. But we know that, in reality, people need more than just a doctor’s order to make fundamental life changes. This creates a huge opportunity to connect with patients using information, technology, and personalization in creative and scalable ways.

 

That’s where patient education comes in—for people to take an active role in their care, they need to understand their condition and know what to do to avoid or reduce complications from any chronic illness.

Five things patient education can do

Patient education can:

  • Help the care team understand more about each person through integrated data to manage and predict health care needs and how to connect with each person.
  • Provide educational resources to the care team in the workflow to enable personalized coaching and information to each person.
  • Empower people through evidence-based and plain-language health education to understand and manage their health condition and know what it means for them in their lives.
  • Motivate people to take action to manage their condition or improve their health with tailored information and tools using behavior change science.
  • Ensure patients know the signs and symptoms of their condition that will require immediate attention.

 

This is the holistic approach to care—making the person a part of the care team and giving the entire team the tools to be more effective, instead of focusing solely on a person’s condition.

Research reveals education works

As we look again at the statistics, there’s no question that preventing, treating, and managing chronic conditions is critical to improving people’s lives and achieving the triple aim. A study on the prevention of type 2 diabetes showed that patients who took metformin reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 31%. But patients whose providers used behavior change techniques to engage and educate them reduced their risk by 58%.4

We recently worked with Health Management Partners of South Dakota to improve outcomes for patients with diabetes through outreach programs to increase statin adherence. After implementing Healthwise quality improvement efforts, 12% of HMP program members moved from an uncontrolled LDL (>70) to a controlled LDL (<70). The number of members who filled at least two statin prescriptions increased by 13% among those who started the study with an LDL >70. In addition, program members who moved from uncontrolled to controlled LDL levels were more likely to have opened the education content provided to them, which demonstrates the role of engagement and education in improved adherence rates and outcomes. Empowering people to make healthier choices allows us the opportunity to repeat this success story again and again.

 

We’d love to share what’s possible when care teams can empower people with access to high-caliber health education. Learn more about our recent innovation and work—creating the health content, solutions, and technology needed to help each person live their healthiest life.


1 https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm

2 https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/diabetes-prediabetes.htm

3 https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/heart-disease-stroke.htm

4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6243218/