In this paper, published by think-tank Reform, the authors argue that the NHS should embrace patient engagement as a key means to achieve its £22 billion saving target.
It highlights that a considerable range of evidence shows that patient engagement can improve both outcomes and use of resources, and that helping patients to manage their own conditions can reduce demand on traditional services. It presents four international case studies where patient engagement has been effective and gives a series of recommendations for achieving better patient engagement in the UK.
The paper initially describes the funding challenges facing the NHS and what is driving these and sets out the potential for better patient engagement to help to address those challenges, as well as the impact of failing to engage people. It argues, however, that the NHS has failed to become 'patient-centred' or 'consumer-friendly' in line with the demands and expectations of patients, or the benefits that accrue from this approach.
It cites four examples of where patient engagement has been successfully achieved:
- The Vitality programme provides incentives for healthy behaviour in South Africa, the UK and the USA. Members earn “points” for taking part in gymsessions, enrolling in smoking cessation programmes and buying healthy foods in partner supermarkets.
- Personal health budgets, in the UK and overseas, have led to better health and wellbeing. They improved value for money due to reduced demand for hospital and GP services and better negotiation over prices with providers.
- Introduced by Kaiser Permanente, Health Connect is an online portal which enables patients to email clinicians, view personal health information, schedule appointments and take online health assessments. Patients have reported greater confidence and success in self-management as a result.
- PatientsLikeMe is a US-based online community which enables patients to meet others with similar conditions and share their experience. One review found that patients better adhered to medication and needed fewer visits to A&E as a result.
It recommends a series of approaches to help the NHS to better engage patients.