• 5Feb

    Patients with lower ‘activation’ associated with higher costs

    In a bid to improve health outcomes and lower costs, many health care delivery systems are seeking to make patients more active participants in treatment decisions and the management of their care―a strategy often referred to as “patient activation.” US organisation, the Commonwealth Fund, supported a study of a large care delivery system in Minnesota and found that patients with the highest level of patient activation had significantly lower costs than those who were the least activated.

    To provide more effective care and lower costs, an increasing number of hospital systems, medical practices, and other care providers are agreeing to take on increased responsibility and financial risk for the outcomes of their care. This shift has necessitated greater attention to the role that patients’ behaviors play in their treatment, and the possibility that activated patients—those able to make informed health care choices and manage their medical conditions—are a key to lower overall health care costs.

    Key Findings

    • In 2010, patients with the lowest activation “scores” had predicted average health care costs that were 8 percent higher than costs for patients with the highest activation scores.
    • Among patients with high cholesterol, those with the lowest activation scores had 12 percent higher predicted costs compared with patients with the highest activation scores. For patients with asthma, those with the lowest activation had 21 percent higher costs.
    • In the first half of 2011, patients with the lowest activation had 21 percent higher costs than patients with the highest activation. This analysis included outpatient care costs for both primary and specialty care, as well as laboratory costs.

    The authors examined data from primary care patients, specialty clinics, and hospitals. More than 33,000 patients were included in the sample. Patient activation data were derived from a measure that asks patients to agree or disagree with such statements as, “I am confident that I can tell a doctor my concerns, even when he or she does not ask.”

    J. H. Hibbard, J. Greene, and V. Overton, “Patients with Lower Activation Associated with Higher Costs; Delivery Systems Should Know Their Patients’ ‘Scores,'” Health Affairs, Feb. 2013 32(2): 216–22.  www.commonwealthfund.org