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Enhancing Patient Engagement for Better Kidney Health

Aug 10, 2023

Thirty-seven million adults in the U.S. are estimated to have chronic kidney disease, with most undiagnosed. Early detection and treatment can help slow disease progression and may prevent kidney failure from developing.

Care for patients with CKD and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) is often complex and fragmented across the care continuum. This may result in patients not receiving the care they need when they need it. Patient engagement can be utilized to slow disease progression, improve quality of life, and reduce costs.

Key Points 

  • The magnitude of patient engagement increases with the complex needs and multiple comorbid conditions present in kidney disease.
  • Caregivers and patients play an essential role in managing disease progression.

Kidney Disease Background 

Chronic Kidney disease is one of the leading causes of fatalities in the U.S. and is characterized by progressive and irreversible damage to the kidneys. Due to the mechanism of the disease, CKD presents a significant burden to both the healthcare system and the patient.

The prevalence of kidney disease continues to increase due to increased rates of the population developing obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

The burden felt by patients with kidney disease is exceptionally high in end-stage renal disease (ESRD), as treatment includes kidney replacement therapies (transplantation or dialysis), which can be expensive and time-consuming.

In the early stages (1-3) of CKD, there is a better opportunity for patients and healthcare providers to slow disease progression and improve quality of life. Interventions such as effective self-management and enhanced adherence to treatments can potentially improve CKD outcomes.

What Is Patient Engagement? 

Patient engagement is a partnership between healthcare providers, patients, and families to enhance patient outcomes. Patient engagement involves healthcare providers encouraging patients to make informed decisions about their health. Engaged patients actively participate in managing their health and care.

There have recently been significant advances in utilizing patient engagement for promoting healthy lifestyle changes, clinical decision-making, and self-management of chronic diseases.

Factors that may influence patient engagement:

  • The patient’s beliefs about their role in their care, their health literacy, and education level.
  • At a social level, social norms, regulations, and public policy influence patient engagement levels.
  • In a healthcare organization, the culture and the policies and procedures have an impact on patient engagement.

Engaging patients in their care is an essential part of effective disease management, as patients can play an influential role in managing one or more chronic diseases. To be active in their care, patients need to understand what they can do to optimize their treatment and why it is important that they follow their treatment plan.

Patients also need a close relationship with their care team between check-ups so that adjustments can be made in real-time to care plans and medications to try to delay disease progression. This may also prevent further or new complications of kidney disease from arising.

More research is needed to understand better how to engage and inform patients in self-management and decision-making. This includes ensuring that information is simple and understandable, ensuring that patients comprehend the importance of the information, and creating information that is actionable.

The Benefits of Patient Engagement 

Patient engagement is crucial in healthcare systems, both for the patient and the providers. When implemented effectively, patient engagement reduces the burden and stress placed on healthcare providers while improving patient health outcomes. Benefits of patient engagement include:

  • Improved patient satisfaction and retention
  • Improved patient long-term health and quality of life
  • Reducing overall costs
  • Reducing potentially preventable hospital readmissions

Patient engagement can lead to positive shifts in organizational culture by promoting:

  • More even distribution of power among patients and providers
  • Development of new competencies
  • Negotiation for service charges
  • Increased patient engagement in service design and delivery

The patient engagement journey is a multi-stage process in which the patient interacts with the health system or a healthcare organization. The patient engagement journey includes patient awareness, lifestyle and behavioral changes, ongoing care, treatment, resources, and care from healthcare providers.

Ways to Enhance Patient Engagement

Organizations need to enhance patient engagement in their care to improve patient outcomes. Successful patient engagement strategies that span the CKD care continuum:

  • Use data analytics to individualize the patient’s journey. A key part of improving patient engagement is delivering the most appropriate message at the right time through your patient’s preferred method of communication.
  • Practice-shared decision-making. While shared decision-making with patients is not a standard practice in healthcare systems, empowered patients are engaged patients. Shared decision-making places the patient on the same level as the healthcare provider, actively involving them in their care plan. While investing in patient education may be time-consuming, it has been shown to improve patient satisfaction and engagement levels significantly.
  • Provide continuous care. Patients with kidney disease require constant monitoring and help with preventative measures to manage or reduce the risk of developing CKD-associated health problems.
  • Incorporate the patient’s goals and motivations. Research has shown that incorporating patients’ goals increases the chance that there will be a successful behavioral change.

How Does Patient Engagement Improve Kidney Disease Outcomes? 

Patients with advanced CKD face physical and mental challenges due to the effects of kidney disease. Common complications caused by kidney disease include anemia, gout, heart disease, bone disease, and fluid build-up.

Some patients may face additional challenges when diagnosed with other conditions alongside kidney diseases. This may cause non-adherence to care plans and increase CKD disease progression as patients are overwhelmed by the complex treatments and information.

Successful management of chronic kidney disease requires continuous education, support, encouragement, and guidance. Long-term and multiple conditions are often better controlled and even improved when patients actively change their lifestyle behaviors and follow treatment plans.

Improved patient engagement looks to achieve the following:

  • Improved lifestyle habits (diet, physical activity, reduced alcohol consumption, quitting smoking)
  • Taking prescribed medications as directed
  • Keeping follow-up appointments with nephrologists and primary care providers
  • Attending dialysis sessions as directed

When patient engagement strategies are designed effectively, the community and healthcare delivery systems can help patients become more engaged, informed, and active in their care plans. Active patients are more likely to actively seek and use information to help them understand kidney disease and ways to manage it.

Healthcare delivery systems should support and encourage patients actively participate in self-management and provide resources to improve the patient’s health literacy. Additional efforts will need to be made by healthcare organizations to make patient engagement a cultural norm.

Panoramic Health 

Panoramic Health is an integrated, value-based care platform led by physicians. Our priority is healthy patients who have an improved quality of life. Through our value-based care platform, we provide patients with industry-leading care coordination that includes:

  • Patient engagement, education, and access. This is achieved through omnichannel patient engagement with comprehensive access to patients in-facility, virtually, in-home, and in-clinic. Patients receive a frictionless experience driven by seamless operational integration.

For providers, we offer comprehensive practice integration solutions that include:

  • Provider engagement and decision support tools. Panoramic Health drives outcomes via data-sharing networks. We also provide unrivaled workflow automation and frictionless provider experience in operationally integrated practices.