Patient engagement has been called “the blockbuster drug of the century” (a phrase from Health IT expert Leonard Kish) for its potential to improve the quality of care. That phrase may be understated since even the biggest, blockbuster pharmaceutical drug can only be sold to those who have the medical condition that the drug addresses.
Patient engagement is more important than ever because of the shift in the burden of disease among the United States population from acute to chronic conditions. Currently half the population, 148 million Americans, suffer from asthma, depression, diabetes or some other chronic disease. They now account for three of every four dollars spent on health care and chronic diseases have become the leading cause of death and disability.
“Chronic diseases are crushing health care,”according to a website promoting the “Triple Solution for a Healthier America.” Chronic diseases cannot be battled without enlisting the patient in the fight but when many physicians hear the words “Patient engagement,” they often prioritize the use of pharmaceutical drugs before lifestyle changes. The website mentioned above that offers to inform doctors about patient engagement is actually sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company that makes medications to treat asthma, depression and diabetes, among other conditions. This is obviously not a "no drugs attached" offer.
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