Visiting your doctor is a vital part of your care, but what you do on your own in between those appointments is equally, if not more, important. Many studies have proven that people have better health outcomes — and better care experiences — if they are more engaged in their own care.
“Your health behaviors, whether you have the right information when you need it most, how involved you feel in your care, and your ability to self-manage your medical issues all make a great difference in your overall health,” says Dr. Adam Licurse, a primary care physician at South Huntington Advanced Primary Care Associates at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).
BWH is introducing numerous new tools and programs that will help patients take a more active role in their health. One example is Vidscrips – an online video software program that allows BWH doctors and other health care professionals to easily record short informative video “prescriptions” that are specific to certain conditions, like diabetes or hypertension, or topics relevant to specific patients, such as pregnant women. Since Vidscrips launched at South Huntington Primary Care earlier this year, Dr. Licurse has prescribed his videos about 50 times, and they have been viewed more than 400 times. In addition to Primary Care, Vidscrips helps to answer questions and provide information to pregnant patients between visits and to deliver detailed instructions for post-operative and post-discharge care to neurosurgical patients.
Other initiatives include virtual visits, which enable patients to remotely see and talk over video with a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner. Patient-reported outcome measures (PROM) is a new platform that helps assess outcomes that matter most to patients. Patients answer a series of questions on an iPad in the waiting room at the clinic and then receive follow-up questionnaires at pre-determined intervals. PROM examples include such things as whether the patient can climb up a flight of stairs without feeling pain, lie down without becoming short of breath, or feel well enough to go out and socialize. Today, Partners HealthCare is a national leader in PROMs work, and BWH is leading the system with thousands of surveys completed by patients over the past year across seven departments, with more joining the effort each month.
BWH also is leading the way on another Partners-wide effort to increase patient engagement with the use of “Patients Like Me,” an upcoming online community that will allow patients to connect with others who have the same disease and share information about their symptoms and care experience. “A link from Patient Gateway will enable patients with certain medical issues to easily join a community within Patients Like Me that is relevant to them, so they can learn from other patients who have shared experiences and hopefully teach back their own lessons along the way,” says Dr. Licurse.