OIG Series Strategy 2: Engaging Beneficiaries

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Our second installment of the seven-part blog series covers best practices on engaging patients to take actionable steps for their health. For new readers, my colleagues and I are breaking down the main strategies covered in the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) latest report on transitioning to value-based care.

Part one unpacked the methodology behind engaging physicians in value-based care measures, and how withholding this step can make or break results. While physician participation is vital, convincing patients to act on information is the real objective of any campaign. Today, we are talking about the two key strategies that helped twenty ACOs close care gaps and set patients on track to healthier lifestyles.

Annual Wellness Visits

The Annual Wellness Visit (AVW) is a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) preventative appointment. This service is highly encouraged by clinicians, as the information provided can help physicians predict future concerns, such as the development of chronic conditions.

Medicare or Medicaid recipients have access to a covered risk assessment, specific health screenings, and professional guidance. Patients can even have their appointments scheduled for them, which is a gamechanger for elderly patients who may be unable to do so. According to the study, a particular ACO in 2017 was able to raise their AWV numbers from 15% to 50% by merely setting up recipients’ appointments. That same ACO also found that patients who received an AWV visited their physician more often throughout the year. These preventative services lay the foundation for prosperous physician-patient relationships and bolster beneficiary engagement within a value-based care organization.

Educating Patients

A significant reason patients become disengaged is the lack of education on essential healthcare topics. Whether it is a lack of knowledge of chronic care management (CCM) practices, healthy habits, or even end-of-life care, facilitating ways to educate patients is a must for providers. The ACOs followed in the study promoted patient education by:

  • Partnering with outside entities like dieticians to guide healthy food choices
  • Speaking with EMTs to discuss when a patient should or should not call an ambulance (especially if they are high utilizers)
  • Educating patients on less common, but just as important topics, like end-of-life care
  • Training care coordinators to have motivational conversations that inspire beneficiaries to make changes
  • Writing guidebooks to instruct what patients should do for specific symptoms, when they should go to the doctor, and when they should go to the emergency room

Our Patient Engagement Strategies

Providers can do everything right, but in the end, it is up to patients to set the course for their health. At Lightbeam Health Solutions, our patient engagement methods involve persistent communication and varying the means of messaging based on targeted cohorts. Encouraging patients to manage their health affects themselves, their physicians, and leads to fewer emergency crises.

Next time, we will discuss how these ACOs efficiently managed beneficiaries with complex (and costly) care needs.

The full study can be found at https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-02-15-00451.asp

Read more from Tinu Pulickal, an Advisor at Lightbeam.

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