Treat Patients like Students, not Consumers

Everyone seems to want to make patients better consumers. The underlying hypothesis is that if we educate patients with dismally low health and insurance IQs, then they will become more engaged which, theoretically would give them the incentives to change their consumer and health habits which would bend the cost curve. That’s a lot of assumptions and, unfortunately, research is increasing that they are not valid.

Fundamentally, doctors are teachers so it is not unreasonable to propose that patients should fundamentally be students.

So, how would we approach patient portal and engagement strategies if the goal is to increase patient grades?

Here is the website for the Denver Public Schools student portal. Notice:

1. Parents can sign in to see how their kids are doing. Caregivers should be able to do the same

2. Student grades are posted. We are so consumed with posting doctor grades, why aren’t we doing the same for patients who are not doing their assignments?

3. Disciplinary notices are posted. Why don’t we do the same for opioid abusers and flagrant abusers of the sick care system?

4. They post videos on how to use the portal to improve performance. Why don’t we do the same with patient-students?

5. They post-academic standards and compare student performance. We should do the same for patients and compare them to how others are doing with the same diseases.

6. Give them incentives to do homework and send in progress reports using patient reported outcomes technologies

7. Have parent-teacher nights for family members and caregivers

8. Have recess and opportunities to provide patients with a sense of community to fight loneliness

9. Give them access to the school nurse

10. Give them access to the school psychologist to manage behavioral health issues

Raising patient grades means treating them like students first. Nobody flunks, but they might have to repeat a few grades until they get the right answers.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs