The term “wellness” has become a popular buzzword in the healthcare world. As with most buzzwords, however, it can tend to lose meaning with repetition.
We can all agree a wellness-focused practice sounds like a fantastic idea — after all, we all want to be healthy and well — but how do we turn a buzzword into an actionable plan?
Promoting wellness starts with learning how to empower patients, thereby engaging them in the healthcare process. Let’s dive a little deeper into how you can develop wellness strategies for patients based on data-driven empowerment to create a truly wellness-focused practice.
What Is Wellness?
To form an actionable wellness plan, defining “wellness” is crucial. “Wellness” gets thrown around a lot in conversations about medicine, mental health, exercise, yoga, mindfulness, nutrition, and even pet care practices!
The National Wellness Institute defines it this way:
“Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.”
We love this definition because it reminds us wellness is not a state of being but an active and evolving journey. It is also a holistic process encompassing all areas of health and wellbeing: lifestyle, mental health, and physical health.
Based on this definition, wellness is not something you can give your patients. It is something you have to encourage, teach, and promote. Wellness is something you must empower your patients to pursue themselves.
How To Empower Patients
Patient empowerment is another popular phrase thrown around in healthcare. The term is often used to emphasize the value of patients having more control over their health and the care they receive. The World Health Organization (WHO), defines empowerment as “a process through which people gain greater control over decisions and actions affecting their health.” Patient empowerment, then, is essentially the process of actively involving patients in their health care plans.
This is a relatively new shift in traditional healthcare brought on by new technology. The internet has made detailed medical information available to the average user. WebMD and its ilk, peer-to-peer sharing and forums, mobile apps, and consumer health devices are the new faces of healthcare.
This — as all doctors will tell you — comes with pros and cons. Instead of fighting the inevitable, there are ways you can develop collaborative and comprehensive wellness strategies for patients.
You Can’t Always Be There
Beyond their time in your office, patients with chronic illnesses spend 5,000 hours annually on other activities directly related to their health — deciding what to eat, what to drink, when and how to exercise, what medications and supplements to take, and what medical advice to follow.
While most of these decisions are being made outside of the doctor’s office, the traditional healthcare model still focuses on optimizing the relatively short amount of time doctors and patients spend together.
Instead of trying to squeeze everything into a 15-30 minute appointment (which puts the onus directly on the doctor) empowering patients with information means they can make fully-informed, autonomous decisions about their health. Empowering patients means giving them the information, data, and tools they need to better use (or even reduce!) those 5,000 hours.
This way of looking at healthcare can improve patient health and morale while saving the healthcare system a tremendous amount of time and money.
Promoting Wellness Through Patient Engagement
Empowering patients through easily accessible data and clearly outlined action plans increases engagement and clinical outcomes, boosts patient satisfaction, and lowers costs all around.
The insurance company Kaiser Permanente recently developed and ran the Collaborative Cardiac Care Service pilot program. This program used technology and data to encourage patient empowerment and engagement with proactive patient education and outreach.
Compared to patients who did not participate, patients who participated reduced their risk of mortality from cardiac-related causes by 88% when they enrolled within 90 days of a heart attack. The clinical care teams involved reduced their overall mortality rates by 76% and cardiac-specific mortality by 73%!
The numbers here are pretty clear: Patient empowerment saves lives.
Helping Patients Practice Self-Care
Health literacy, technological literacy, and self-efficacy are all components of patient empowerment and help them practice effective self-care. When your patients feel empowered to speak up and you take the time to teach them how to interpret medical advice and their specific treatments, the improvement in outcomes can be striking.
A hospital in Sweden, Ryhov County Hospital, is the perfect example. Patient Christian Farman was receiving dialysis. One day he asked if he could do the procedure himself. He was taught to use the machine, interpret the lab values the machine put out, and how to properly document his care. This led to less variation and fewer complications than the average dialysis patient endures. His case was so successful the hospital now has a whole wing dedicated to self-dialysis; 60% of all dialysis patients self-administer.
This is an extreme example, but there are so many other strategies to empower patients on a smaller scale. Whether by learning to adjust their own insulin doses or take their own blood pressure, empowering patients can provide a sense of agency to propel them towards making better decisions for their health.
Becoming a Wellness-Focused Practice
Becoming a wellness-focused practice means centering your conversations with patients on their overall wellbeing, listening to them as a respected individual, engaging them with information, and bringing them into the decision-making process.
You can start small. Offer a weekly newsletter with information about wellness and the health practices you specialize in. Are you an orthopedic surgeon? Send out informational videos on stretching exercises. Are you an endocrinologist? Create a visual, step-by-step guide patients can reference while they inject or adjust their insulin dose.
Patient empowerment is all about information sharing, and you are already the expert they want to hear from! Now you just have to figure out how to package that information for your patients.
For More Information
If you want to help patients feel empowered and start promoting wellness, iProv can help. Schedule a free consultation online, or give us a call at (501) 653-6532. We can help strategize, design, and employ your next patient empowerment campaign!