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Putting Engaged and Empowered Individuals at the Center of our Health Care System

By making prices and quality information more accessible, providing the right tools to help people navigate the system, and listening to patients, we can help engage and empower people to take control of their health, something that's good for them and good for our communities.

At the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we are working toward transforming our health care system into one that puts individuals at the center. By making prices and quality information more accessible, providing the right tools to help people navigate the system, and listening to patients, we can help engage and empower people to take control of their health, something that's good for them and good for our communities. Personally, I have seen first-hand what a difference the right information at the right time can make to someone facing a health care decision, which is why I signed on to help expand this work at HHS. Earlier this month, Secretary Burwell hosted leaders who represent consumers, providers, health insurers, technology companies, and other industry perspectives to share their experiences with putting individuals at the center of the health care system and to help HHS leaders recognize ways we can walk the same path. I wanted to share some of these insights:

Making Prices and Quality Information Accessible Transparency and access to information are key drivers of consumer engagement. David Vivero, CEO and Co-Founder of Amino, shared that his company understands the link between individuals' direct connection to their own health information and increased engagement in health care decision-making. Janice Walker, Co-Founder of OpenNotes, echoed that patients' access to their health information engages them to be equal partners in their care.

Providing the Right Tools and Resources to Help People Navigate the System Dr. Deirdre Mylod, Executive Director of the Institute for Innovation at Press Ganey, emphasized that all players in the health care system must work collectively to remove barriers to engagement. Dr. Sara Laskey, Chief Patient Experience Officer at The MetroHealth System in Cleveland, OH, spoke about how MetroHealth has removed barriers by bringing health care into the community to individuals where they are. The health system started school-based health clinics in partnership with the school district and is seeing significant progress in primary care access resulting in healthier outcomes for the kids accessing care at these clinics. Several participants echoed how community partnership is especially important in the context of serving vulnerable populations and those that may be navigating the health care system for the first time.

Listening to the Patient Voice The discussion emphasized the importance of listening to patients and having them at the decision-making table. Mark Ganz, President and CEO of Cambia Health Solutions, spoke about the fundamental shift that listening to patients brought about at his company. Cambia has learned that what patients want is not always what it thinks they want. How the health care sector defines quality and value often differs from how patients define quality and value. Creating a high quality experience involves first listening to individuals and their families and then going from there. Ann Hwang, Director of Community Catalyst's Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, elevated the need to incorporate consumers at both the programmatic and policy levels, not just in the doctor's office. Secretary Burwell closed out the discussion by acknowledging the movement and culture change each of the leaders around the table is effecting, and with a call to action to continue moving the needle forward. In the year ahead, HHS will continue our work to further this vision as we focus on the three areas outlined above. We are already making progress in these areas via a diverse array of initiatives. These include:

  • Enhancing efforts to support the newly insured with tools that help them understand their coverage and connect to care through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) From Coverage to Care program and the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) Consumer Support Group, which will continue to provide post-enrollment resources for Navigators and Assisters to support the newly insured post-enrollment.
  • Increasing consumer awareness and access to preventive care by sharing Healthfinder.gov, a free, easy-to-use and interactive tool that provides personalized preventive services recommendations. We're sharing the Healthfinder.gov application program interface (API) with partner organizations to help more people understand and access preventive services.
  • Helping individuals understand their rights under HIPAA to access and obtain a copy of their health information. In January, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released a fact sheet that clarifies individuals' rights to their health information, including the format in which it is provided to them and access in a timely manner.
  • Continuing implementation of strategies and models that emphasize patient-centered care with the release of CMS' Person and Family Engagement Strategic Plan in 2016, which will help guide the meaningful and intentional implementation of person and family engagement throughout CMS policies and programs. The CMS Innovation Center (CMMI) continues to develop payment and care delivery models that reward quality, value, and create incentives for providers to improve patient engagement and education.
  • Using open government strategies to empower innovators both inside and outside government to create tools that help solve home and clinical care challenges.

In 2016, we plan to continue our discussion with public and private partners. Together, we can further our shared goal of a better health care system with the consumer at the center.

This a crosspost from the HHS.gov blog. Featured image photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/9DVvGY

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