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"Patient activation measurement is the solution to engaging patients in their own healthcare. Measure the patient's activation; identify and implement strategies to improve the patient's activation; and when activation scores increase that is success and we have an activated patient ready to engage in their own healthcare. This is patient-centered care and this is how to go about improving healthcare outcomes."
Yes, the speaker at this conference had that much clarity and apparent belief that patient activation measures were this important, and yes, the silver bullet to improving healthcare outcomes.
If only he had heard another speaker, this one at last year's NEHI (Network for Excellence in Health Innovation) conference in Boston, discussing a similar subject. This speaker shared a story (paraphrased below) ...
There was an amazing physician who truly believed in patient engagement and activation. He was known for ensuring his patients were involved in their own care decisions, they felt heard, received the "why" to treatment recommendations and were partners in their care. He was brilliant and engaging and truly 'got it.'
Recently, and after many years in practice, this same physician became seriously ill. And of course he expected the same treatment from his physicians as he provided to his own patients.
Well, one would think.
Actually that was not the case. When this physician became seriously ill he did not want to be involved in shared decision-making. He did not want to improve his patient activation (and Lord knows not his activation score). He did not want to be engaged as we in the system would define patient engagement. What he wanted at that time was "God-doctor" to tell him what he needed to do.
I can only imagine this surprised those who knew this physician as both a patient and a clinician. For someone to not only advocate for but also to live every day providing patient-centered care that positions patients to engage in their own care, this just doesn't make sense ... or does it?
Perhaps this physician, even through his own illness journey, continues to teach us all what patient-centered care truly is. In fact, I believe that he is.
Lessons he teaches are:
Much gratitude to the physician referenced above for continuing to teach us all as he faced his own healthcare challenges. And lastly, let's not get so focused on tools and measurements that we lose sight of patients. Let's harness the power of tools and measurement to enhance patient-centered care provision, not replace it.
Thomas H. Dahlborg, M.S.M., is chief financial officer and vice president of strategy for NICHQ (National Institute for Children's Health Quality), where he focuses on improving child health and well-being.
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