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Health assessment tool lets patients with chronic conditions protect their health by being more proactive

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About 80 percent of older Americans struggle with at least one chronic condition.  About 50 percent struggle with at least two chronic conditions.  But poor health doesn’t have to be a by-product of aging.  What’s more with the number of Americans 65 and older expected to double in the next 15 years, not only can we not afford to wrestle with chronic conditions on an individual level, we can’t afford to do so on a national level either.  An essential aspect of preventing healthcare problems from spiraling out of control is to prevent chronic conditions when possible and to reduce the complications due to chronic conditions when not.  The biggest obstacles to both problems lies in the patient’s understanding of doctor’s instructions and their subsequent participation in their own treatment.  One tool being used to help with this is something the MacColl Institute for Healthcare Innovation calls the Assessment of Care for Chronic Conditions (click on Patient Assessment of Care for Chronic Conditions, PACIC, 20 items) that a geriatric physician handed out to participants at a recent Senior Matters Conference.

This is a two page assessment of patient care from the perspective of the patient and examines the factors affecting patient care and compliance with recommended treatments especially for patients with chronic health issues.  Questionnaires can be an important tool when establishing a benchmark that can then be used to compare results and make decisions.  When used in a health environment, these tools can help healthcare professionals build better responses in their own practices.  Because much of chronic care involves patients following specific health guidelines such as diet and exercise patterns, the relationship between patient and physician requires more of a partnership between the healthcare teams and the patient and patient’s family.  The PACIC helps patients provide definitive answers as to whether or not the healthcare providers care levels met a degree of care that allowed the patient to understand their doctor’s communication about key aspects of their health such as understanding their medication instructions as well as discovering if critical aspects of their healthcare were coordinated with the patient’s own wishes.  A 2007 study found that patients that used the form showed a higher level of self-management behaviors.  The tool also has the potential and indeed is used to help healthcare providers track quality measures in patient treatment.

Health care costs can be lowered if the delivery of that health care is better managed.  That’s important because one estimate is that even reasonably healthy older adults will spend about $163,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, excluding long-term care in the last quarter of their lives.  In 2012, the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics found that the improper and unnecessary use of medicines exceeded $200 billion (almost 10 percent of the U.S. annual healthcare spending).  For those people hoping to avoid institutional care and protect their assets, they must do two things: plan for potential healthcare expenses and protect their health.  Because if they don’t do those two things they most assuredly will be a burden on their children.

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