Many healthcare professionals know their organization could do a better job helping patients understand and monitor their health metrics. Unfortunately, they don’t realize just how important it is to take steps to make that happen. When patients don’t know their current health metrics or their health targets, several critical things can’t happen, including:
- Patients can’t recognize patterns or easily determine whether their health is improving or declining. For example, if a patient doesn’t know his cholesterol level today, he won’t know in six months whether it has gone up or down.
- Patients can’t tell when they are at risk or heading toward complications that could result in them being hospitalized. For example, a patient with diabetes who is not monitoring his blood sugar may feel fine, but his body and health may be suffering. Having elevated blood glucose can take a toll on the patient and eventually lead to a hospital admission that could have been prevented.
- Patients can’t seek help when they don’t realize they need it. Some health issues can easily be solved with a simple fix from a healthcare provider. But if a patient doesn’t know his health numbers are off, he won’t likely reach out to his healthcare team. That means missed opportunities to prevent small issues from turning into larger ones.
- Patients can’t effectively manage chronic illnesses. Many chronic conditions can be managed by following a healthy diet and lifestyle. But it takes awareness of health metrics and ongoing effort to keep chronic conditions in check. If a patient doesn’t know, for example, his blood pressure is too high or that consuming too much sodium can lead to elevated blood pressure, then he may not know to make certain dietary changes that would allow him to keep his chronic conditions in check.
- Patients can’t have the best possible healthcare experiences and may not be satisfied with their care. Patients are more likely to have issues if they don’t have the information they need to effectively manage their health. Patients who are not educated about health metrics and are not doing things they should to manage their health may experience more problems that lead to patients being unhappy with their healthcare.
Of course, when patients know their current health metrics, understand what they mean and know the ideal range they need to stay within to maintain good health, several positive things can happen. For example, patients can:
- Monitor their health at home.
- Notice patterns and changes in their health.
- Reach out to providers when health metrics signal problems.
- Make improvements and see the positive impact on their health.
- More effectively manage chronic conditions.
- Prevent avoidable hospitalizations.
It takes effective communication from providers to educate patients about current and target health metrics and support them with health monitoring. For ideas on how to use engagement communications and health monitoring surveys to increase awareness of health metrics and help patients stay on track with goals, check out Patients Say “Teach Me” About Health Metrics.