UO tool shows patient interest improves health and cuts costs

Judith Hibbard
Judith Hibbard

Bringing patients' needs and participation into the equation of health care has been a focus for the UO's Judith Hibbard since the mid 1970s. Her work at the UO led to a trademarked tool known as the Patient Activation Measure.

Now researchers have confirmed — in the largest, long-term study done to date — that a patient's activation level as measured by her tool is vital in achieving positive outcomes and lowering the cost of treatment.

The findings appear in the journal Health Affairs and are described in a news release issued by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which funded the study. The research was conducted at Fairview Health Services, a large non-profit health care system in Minnesota. Hibbard was a co-author with researchers at George Washington University and Fairview Medical Group.

"It is gratifying to see our work actually being used to improve people's health and the care their receive," said Hibbard, professor emerita in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management. "It is exciting to see the use of our tool being adopted on a larger scale. For example, the states of New York, Washington, Oregon and South Carolina are using it with their Medicaid populations. As a result they are more effective in their support and communications with their patients. The ultimate goal is to help individuals take a more proactive role in managing their health."

In developing the Patient Activation Measure, she said, it was important to see patients "as key actors in solving health care problems." Under reform efforts, patients too often have been viewed as interchangeable widgets.

"My thoughts were that people differ substantially in their orientation to health, their skills, their knowledge and their motivation," she said. "We should look at the very real contributions that patients make that determine health outcomes and health costs.

"To understand that complexity, she said, there was a need for a tool to measure where patients are starting in terms of their knowledge, skills and confidence that they need to carry out their part in the care process."

The study examined activation levels of more than 32,000 adult patients using Patient Activation Measure scores over two years. Higher baseline activation levels were predictive of better health outcomes in nine of 13 health indicators.

For additional details, see the news release "New Study Confirms People More Activated in Their Care Have Better Health Outcomes and Lower Costs."

More information about the Patient Activation Measure, including licensing, is available at Insignia Health.

—By Jim Barlow, Public Affairs Communications