More than a century ago, the delivery of healthcare was based on the simplistic premise of demand and supply depending on a person’s health. People sought care when they fell ill.
Despite advances in modern medicine and a greater understanding of what makes each person unique, this traditional healthcare model still exists. And, as a result, so does a deep-rooted view among most people to seek care only when one needs it. But as the pandemic has shown us, the more informed and engaged people are, the more preventive care and treatments can be optimized.
For example, South Korea is regarded as a stand-out in the effective management of COVID-19. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency supported the rapid development of test kits, thereby allowing for efficient testing of COVID-19 across the country and reducing the number of infections and spread of the virus.
As a new white paper, “Asia Pacific’s Patient Engagement Dilemma: The Case for Patient Centricity and Continuous Patient Engagement in Diagnostic Care in Asia Pacific”, reveals, involvement by health systems of patients throughout their healthcare journey and a reciprocal willingness of members of the public to engage with the healthcare ecosystem has a direct impact on national health. This can be seen in the uptake of screening and preventive care, community-based care, health information-seeking behaviours, and home-based monitoring and treatment.
The degree of patient involvement isn’t about being a rich or poor country, rather how people within a particular health system interact with it. Merely being an advanced country does not imply that people are well-informed, enjoy greater engagement with the health system, or get the right care at the right time. If that was the only criteria then the US health system would not have an increasing patient administrative burden, and the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK would not have a waiting period of over 18 weeks.
Why patient engagement matters in Asia-Pacific
While the ability to engage with the healthcare sector is determined by the availability, accessibility, and efficiency of healthcare systems and infrastructure, people’s willingness to engage with them is tied to culture, trust and beliefs.
In most cases, the challenges in healthcare are seen as access issues – a measure of the supply or availability of healthcare resources – and therefore receive the bulk of stakeholder attention. But in fact, simply making resources available cannot solve the dilemma most health systems face today, of growing patient populations, higher costs as well as insufficient resources.
This is where patient engagement becomes critical. Asia-Pacific bears much of the global infectious disease burden, such as tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, hepatitis and diarrhoeal diseases, while witnessing a rise in non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and various cancers.
Greater patient engagement creates demand for resources or services available within the health system earlier rather than later. Providing them encourages patients to have an interest in, commitment to and reliance on healthcare resources. All of this in turn helps prevent the onset of serious illnesses, increases the quality and length of patients’ lives, lowers the long-term cost of healthcare, and alleviates the associated economic burden in a given society.