Patients can lower medical costs by getting involved

KEY TAKEAWAY: Via the WSJ: Patients who were encouraged by health coaches to review options and get more involved in choices had 5.3% lower overall medical costs, 12.5% fewer hospital admissions and fewer elective surgeries.

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that patients who receive specific, unbiased information about their treatment options end up receiving lower-intensity services than patients who do not receive this type of information

A study by David Wennberg and colleagues provided a highly relevant data source for investigating the impact that shared decision making has on medical costs. The study demonstrated that a broad-based population health management program that targeted people with high risk of future costs—including people who had a variety of chronic conditions or were at risk for surgery—lowered health care use and costs for the entire population. The program provided health coaching to patients that was focused on self-care, improved health behavior, and well-informed health decision making. It reduced total study population costs by 3.6 percent.

Doctors also have new financial incentives to engage patients in decision making. In 2015, Medicare approved reimbursement for lung-cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan for certain at-risk patients—as long as they participate in a shared-decision counseling session first.

Identifying and making a decision about the best health treatment or screening option can be difficult for patients. Decision aids can be used when there is more than one reasonable option, when no option has a clear advantage in terms of health outcomes, and when each option has benefits and harms that patients may value differently.

Findings show that when patients use decision aids they:

a) Improve their knowledge of the options (high-quality evidence);

b) Feel more informed and more clear about what matters most to them (high-quality evidence);

c) Have more accurate expectations of the possible benefits and harms of their options (moderate-quality evidence)

d) Participate more in decision making (moderate-quality evidence). Patients who used decision aids that included an exercise to help them clarify what matters most to them, were more likely to reach decisions that were consistent with their values.

Research also suggests patients can be overwhelmed with too much information at once. For example, breast-cancer patients often have to decide between multiple therapy options to prevent cancer from coming back. In a study that surveyed 1,781 women, published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment in 2011, half viewed displays that showed four possible treatment plans at once. The other half viewed the same information as two separate yes/no choices. Participants first chose between hormonal therapy and no therapy; those who chose hormonal therapy, then considered the incremental effect of adding chemotherapy.

Where is pharma?

To me this says “huge opportunity” for pharma.  DRC marketers need to stop selling and start approaching patient marketing with an empathetic point-of-view.  Questions that patients should be able to get on your site are:

1ne: What are ALL my treatment options?

2wo: What are the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment?

3hree: How can I become a “partner” in my treatment with my doctor?

4our: How do I approach my doctor about treatment options?

5ive: Is your product covered by my insurance?

6ix: What do other patients have to say about your product and treatments?

7even: How can I balance my work/life while undergoing treatment?

How many pharma websites have all these bases covered?  None, zilch, zero, nada! Empathy is a marketers best friend.