Many complications related to chronic illnesses are avoidable, and yet emergency department visits, hospitalizations and other costly and unpleasant experiences are common among chronic patients. So why aren’t more of the preventable problems averted? One reason is that many patients simply don’t have a clear enough understanding of what their own health readings are and what they mean. West surveyed 1,036 patients and 317 healthcare providers across the U.S., and found that there is a need for more guidance from providers to help patients better understand their health metrics.
West’s survey revealed that a majority of patients believe healthcare teams have a responsibility to educate patients about their health metric targets. For example, 97 percent of patients with diabetes think it’s important for healthcare professionals to make sure patients know and understand their current and target health metrics. In many cases, diabetes can be managed successfully. But the condition is much more difficult to control when patients do not know what their blood glucose level should be or how to test it, track it or control it.
One study published in the British Journal of General Practice found that 60 percent of patients with diabetes did not know—and could not guess—their blood sugar level. This highlights the importance of educating patients about the key health metrics (like blood sugar) that they should be tracking to manage chronic conditions. Healthcare providers can, of course, discuss health metrics with patients during face-to-face appointments. But those brief conversations alone are not typically enough. Fortunately, patients are open to receiving between-visit communications from providers about monitoring chronic conditions and checking health metric numbers. Forty percent of patients with diabetes report being interested in receiving this type of communication from their healthcare team. The desire for metrics-focused communication is not just limited to patients with diabetes. In fact, interest in communications that help explain health metrics is even higher among patients with hypertension (43%), congestive heart failure (50%), obesity (42%) and COPD (44%).
Using automated communications to reach out to patients and provide detailed health metric information between visits is easy for providers that leverage their patient engagement technology. Just as healthcare teams use engagement technology to send appointment reminders, they can send text messages, voice messages or emails with disease management information patients need and want. For a closer look at how healthcare teams can give patients more support so they have a better understanding of their health metric targets, download Patients Say “Teach Me” About Health Metrics.