A continuing theme in the move to pay-for-value is the importance of consumer engagement – for participation in the management of both conditions and consumer satisfaction. And chronic care management requires that consumers becoming better informed and more directly and proactively involved in decisions that affect their health – what is known as an “informed and activated consumer.” (If you are unfamiliar with this concept, “consumer activation” refers to a consumer’s knowledge, skills, ability, and willingness to manage his or her own health and care.)
But, “engaging consumers” is not a skill that health care professionals necessarily learn in their training. Nicole Schechter, Psy.D., Rehabilitation Psychologist, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, raised this point during The 2016 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute session, Engaging Consumers To Improve Outcomes: Bringing Patient Engagement To Population Health. So how do you approach the problem? In the same session, Nancy Ruddy, Ph.D., Vice President, Consumer Engagement at McCann Health – and a psychologist who has practiced in primary care settings – spoke of the 7 “C’s” of consumer engagement:
- Collaboration – Streamline inter-professional communication and training, while offering shared decisionmaking with consumers and their families.
- Comprehension – Educate both staff and consumers about health literacy and expand roles for health educators.
- Contextualization – Emphasize the “why” and the “what” of treatment, and make the social history of the consumer part of the medical history.
- Community – Expand social relationships through support networks, support groups, and advocacy groups.
- Continuity – Educate consumers and staff on how continuing consumer engagement streamlines care efficiency and leads to optimal care.
- Connection – Ensure that consumers know who is on their team and the role of each provider.
- Compassion – Build staff’s “empathy skill set,” and help consumers and their families normalize the emotional challenges of illness.
But how do you operationalize those 7 “C’s”? Dr. Schechter shared her work developing a consumer engagement program for Johns Hopkins (as well as other hospitals) – work that focuses on changing how clinical professionals interact with consumers and overcome the challenges of outdated thought processes, competing administrative priorities, lack of incentives, and insufficient staff training. Specifically, this model focuses on helping clinical professionals use their time strategically with the consumer (rather than more time). She described her consumer engagement training program, or PET, in three phases:
- Planning – The planning phase calls for leadership to clarify the specific needs of the clinical unity and identifying the logistical issues, potential barriers, and metrics needed to develop training goals for staff.
- Initial training – Initial training includes 60-minute grand rounds for full staff, including office staff and all clinicians; four to seven hour basic training for clinicians; and one hour additional training for PET “champions.”
- Skill building & maintenance – Training maintenance involves monthly or quarterly PET activities that serve as boosters for initial training, along with a semi-annual assessment of PET skills.
After the model has been used, evaluation of the results become important – including metrics on training satisfaction; self-efficacy for using consumer engagement skills and principles; health care and provider satisfaction scores; cancellation rates; and hospital admissions for preventable complications.
For organizations who are still questioning whether consumer engagement initiatives can effectively change how staff interact with consumers, Dr. Schechter referenced the hand washing campaigns that are common in health care. Hospitals and provider organizations have thrown a lot of resources into making hand washing common practice in health care settings – with reminders, hand washing monitors, and training. And it has worked. Consumer engagement works the same way – as long as resources, reminders, and training are provided, staff is much more likely to actually engage consumers effectively and continue to engage consumers beyond the initial implementation period.
Does your organization need consumer engagement training? To answer that question, you first need to measure your current levels of consumer engagement (for more on that, see Solving For Engagement With Technology, Less Consumer Education Demands More Consumer Engagement, and For Tech-Enabled Consumer Health Education, Engagement = Success). And for even more, join the OPEN MINDS team at The 2016 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute on November 10 for the session, “Innovations In Consumer Technology: How To Use Tech To Increase Engagement & Improve Satisfaction.”