How Health Risk Assessments Can Improve Patient Care

Population Health,Mobile,mhealth

Implemented as part of a comprehensive process, Health risk assessments (HRA) – sometimes referred to as wellness profiles – are a vital tool in preventing and managing chronic conditions.

According to the CDC, chronic illnesses constitute the bulk of the healthcare spending in the United States (83 percent), while nearly all Medicare's payments (99 percent) are for beneficiaries that present with at least one chronic condition. Despite this continued rise in healthcare spending, many patients do not follow through on recommended preventive services and subsequent follow up treatments. Among adults aged 65 and older, only 33 percent of women and 40 percent of men are up to date with all age-specific recommended preventive services, and fewer than 25 percent of adults aged 50 to 64 years are up to date in receiving these services. Rising rates of certain chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia, are linked to behaviors that can be modified, including obesity, poor eating habits, and lifestyle choices. 

Given the prevalence of chronic conditions, there are significant opportunities to not only help patients better manage their conditions but to also promote early detection and, optimally, prevention. The HRA can offer health care providers much needed insight into their patient’s health status and aid in developing and monitoring personalized prevention and treatment plans.

Engage Patients

In recent years, much has been written about the need to engage patients in their own healthcare. This includes providing patients with timely, relevant, and actionable information pertaining to their health status. The questions included in the HRA can begin the process of raising awareness regarding the health and lifestyle factors that are determinants of overall wellness. Using the HRA as the centerpiece of the discussion with their physician during an annual wellness visit, for example, creates the opportunity to educate the patient and help inspire behavior change.

Personalize Treatment Plans

The results of the HRA provide critical insight into the interventions that are most appropriate for the patient. As noted in the CDC report, “by asking, educating and counseling, health professionals are more likely to assist individuals in modifying health behavior and preventing future disease than by administering tests or physical examinations.” The HRA plays an important role in guiding these discussions. Clearly, achieving long term, sustained behavior change can only result from consistent, ongoing reinforcement of healthy behaviors. To achieve real change, the HRA process must be supplemented by processes that consistently educate, instruct and alert patients of those healthy habits most important to their long term health.

Monitor Progress

Once a baseline HRA has been captured, administering it on an ongoing basis can help track changes in the risk profile of an individual over time. This can help gauge the effectiveness of the prescribed interventions and support the health care professional in further refining treatment plans. It can also serve as an important vehicle to demonstrate progress and results to the patient – providing another avenue for motivation and positive reinforcement. Beyond the individual, aggregating this data across populations of patients and analyzing it based on various demographic, clinical, and psycho-social factors can help detect important trends that lead to further improvements.

As the CDC notes, HRAs and subsequent interventions are delivered using several different methods. Mobile and text messaging—a communication channel that has proven to be effective regardless of age and socio-economic status— is one approach that is ideal for administering the HRA process. This channel can provide patients with concise information about the HRA, alert them to complete or update their assessment, and guide them to the HRA with a link to a secure, mobile-responsive site. Further, based upon the results of the HRA, a program of regular, targeted messages can be sent to promote behavior change. Using this approach, data is gathered electronically in a way that is not only convenient for the patient but also makes information readily available to health care professionals which support monitoring and data analysis.

Our “text first” platform, which includes the ability to securely deploy HRAs (without the patient needing to go through the oftentimes difficult process of downloading an app), is ideally suited to supporting both the HRA process and ongoing patient communication and engagement requirements.

CareWire blends SMS text, secure messaging, and web applications to support our customer’s population health, patient preparation and recovery and patient satisfaction initiatives. The CareWire platform lowers costs, improves patient adherence, and enhances the overall patient experience. To learn more about how CareWire can assist with your HRA process, click below.