If there were a super-drug that could reduce the mortality rate for patients with heart disease by 76%, it would be considered the medical discovery of the century. While no such drug exists, a program called Collaborative Cardiac Care Service (CCCS) instituted by Kaiser Permanente in Colorado has achieved those astounding numbers and saved lives.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) affects 80 million Americans and, when poorly managed, results in hospitalization and early death. Not coincidentally, CAD is one of the top chronic conditions driving up healthcare expenditures. Annual medical and social costs for CAD are estimated at half a trillion dollars. In 2009, clinicians at Kaiser formed the CCCS to engage CAD patients in programs designed to improve health and reduce risk. According to Kaiser: “Physicians, nurses and pharmacists, using proven CAD risk-reduction strategies, work collaboratively with CAD patients to coordinate care. Activities such as lifestyle modification, medication management, patient education, laboratory results monitoring, and management of adverse events are all coordinated across a multifunctional team.” After engaging 12,000 patients, Kaiser dramatically reduced the risk of dying from CAD and prevented an estimated 135 deaths and 260 emergency medical interventions per year.
Patients who are well-informed about their medical conditions are more likely to follow doctor’s orders when it comes to reducing weight, quitting smoking, exercising, and other recommended regimens. They are also more effective in managing their own care on an ongoing daily basis. And engaged patients are better able to communicate with clinicians, which can help them achieve the best diagnoses and care plans. Not surprisingly, engagement of patients and their families has become one of the top health policy priorities of the Obama administration as it implements the Affordable Care Act. Engagement is low-cost, has proven health benefits, and saves lives. As health IT strategy consultant Leonard Kish puts it, “patient engagement is the blockbuster drug of the century…. it would be considered malpractice not to use it.”