Q&A with Adam Husney of Healthwise: Patient education with a mission

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AVIA Marketplace is the leading online resource for accurate, unbiased information about digital health companies and solutions. Our goal: To empower hospitals and health systems with the information they need to match with vendors who can meet their unique needs. We asked the top companies in the patient education space about their solutions and what they think the future of digital health looks like. No sponsored content or advertorials—just transparency and insights that decision-makers can use. 

Since its founding in 1975, Healthwise has earned a reputation as one of the most respected patient education companies in the industry, with a broad portfolio of solutions to inform healthcare consumers at all points across the care continuum. Healthwise solutions enable physicians to deliver health education at the point of care, with content that includes instructions, videos, and decision support tools for patients. Health systems can also use Healthwise content to augment their content libraries, support digital care journeys, and implement standards-based education. All content reflects current standards of care and is designed to help providers and payers meet patients exactly where they are. 

CEO Adam Husney, M.D. has advocated for patients to take active roles in their health throughout his entire career. As CEO, Adam works with Healthwise product managers and clients from the provider and payer industries to create products that meet their workflow needs. He also collaborates with Healthwise’s behavior change and plain-language experts to build products to help people make the right healthcare decisions for themselves. A physician by training, Adam received his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Brown University and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. After completing his family medicine residency at the University of Michigan, he has practiced in New Hampshire and Idaho. 

Q: Can you tell us about your company and the challenges you are solving within the patient education space?

A: Healthwise was founded in 1975 as a nonprofit with the mission “to help people make better health decisions.” Healthwise partners with hospitals, health plans, health portals, and technology companies to fulfill that mission by providing the health education content they need, the technology to deliver it, and the expert services to ensure continued success.

The problems we solve:

  • Healthwise content. Building patient trust has never been more critical. Healthwise provides the most up-to-date, accurate, and evidence-based patient education. Our education is personal, engaging, and empowers patients throughout their patient journeys.
  • Healthwise technology. Healthwise provides a consistent singular source of patient education across the care continuum. Our technology solutions make that education available through easy integration with complex health IT systems and healthcare solutions. 
  • Healthwise service. Healthwise team members believe in our mission and bring that energy into their jobs every day. Our service to clients differentiates us. After 47 years, we have a deep understanding of the patient education and clinician experience, and work hard to solve the unique challenges that organizations face at the point of care.
Q: How does your company differentiate from other patient education solution vendors?

A: Healthwise is a fiercely independent nonprofit with a singular focus on unbiased health education and a responsibility only to the people we serve. Our mission influences our decision-making, not shareholders, and that lets us do what’s right for patients every time. 

True to our mission, we invest in making the best health education to help people live healthier lives. Healthwise has unmatched breadth and depth of content including over 8,500 health education topics, more than 800 videos, and support for 19 languages. Healthwise educational content is user-tested and optimized for patient engagement, including reading level, content structure, and content length. Our teams put special focus on improving health literacy with plain language and low-text, highly visual health education. 

Our dedication to health equity, diversity, inclusion, and addressing social determinants of health means that we constantly improve and update our materials to engage, represent, and support all people in their healthcare journeys. 

Q: What are some of the biggest changes your company has seen around how health systems are approaching patient education since 2020?

Global health events like COVID-19 have shown how critical it is to have accurate, evidence-based patient education. Content must keep up with the flow of new information and be regularly updated to earn and maintain public trust.

To use that education effectively, hospitals and health systems need it to seamlessly integrate into existing technology and provider workflows, with regular updates that don’t create new IT and operational burdens.

Finally, shifting sites of care, such as increasing virtual care and telehealth, have made consistent patient education experiences across the care continuum even more important.

Q: What does an ideal client look like? How are health systems best organized for success in advancing their patient education capabilities?

A: Our ideal client shares our mission to give patients the information and tools that they need to drive their own health. They believe that education plays a critical role in empowering the patient, improving outcomes, reducing costs, and improving clinician satisfaction. And they’re committed to investing in patient education governance and programs to use patient education effectively.

Q: What measurable outcomes have you seen from your clients?

A: Generally, we’ve been able to measure positive outcomes connected to our education including:

  • Reduction in readmission rates 
  • Workflow efficiencies and time savings  
  • Clinician satisfaction 
  • Patient decision-making and satisfaction (including general fluency in understanding healthcare conditions) 
 

Healthwise also has a strategy and analytics team that supports clients, partners, and health researchers in their quality improvement research. We can help identify opportunities for quality improvement with data, assist with data identification and analysis, and support funded research and student projects. We then help to highlight and disseminate these projects with our network of client organizations across the United States.

Q: What major functional enhancements and/or product investments are you making in the near term to keep up with the evolution of patient education?

A: Healthwise is focused on a number of product enhancements, including support for health literacy and health equity; content and product developments that support social determinants of health; and interoperability, as seen in our recent release of Healthwise Advise, our point of care solution for Epic users.

Q: What are the biggest opportunities health systems should be thinking about this coming year when it comes to patient education?

A: Two opportunities health systems should be thinking about are:

  1. How education can help them reach diverse and underserved populations in their communities.
    Reaching diverse and underserved populations is important to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity to receive quality health care. Additionally, low health equity impacts outcomes and increases costs for patients, hospitals, and health systems. For example, more than one-third of U.S. adults have low health literacy. Compared to those with proficient health literacy, adults with low health literacy experience:

    • Four times higher health care costs
    • About 6 percent more hospital visits
    • Hospital stays that are two days longer

    And low health literacy isn’t just a problem for patients who don’t get the care they need—it’s a problem for health care organizations. Low health literacy is estimated to cost the U.S. $236 billion annually. Education can help by improving comprehension and communication.

  2. How a consistent voice of education can bridge their shifting sites of care.
    As populations change and become more complex, how do health systems reach patients? Your patient population is in many different places, so it’s important to make sure they receive a consistent experience everywhere they interact with your health system. As sites of care diversify, offering consistent education helps ensure a consistent patient experience.
Q: How do you see patient education evolving in the next two to five years and beyond?

A: Education will be increasingly used as an intervention. Health systems have the opportunity to drive behavior change through education. For example, how can education impact diabetes prevention? According to the CDC, roughly 37 million Americans live with diabetes today and a staggering 96 million have pre-diabetes. How can we prevent the 96 million with pre-diabetes from fully developing the condition? Access to and engagement with health education improves awareness, educates on early warning signs, and ultimately prevents escalation of serious health conditions.

Health education will also continue to be used to improve health equity. No single educational format accommodates everyone—patients need an assortment of text, videos, illustrations, and interactive pieces. And the education must be available in multiple languages, depict diversity, and have the appropriate accessibility considerations.

Lastly, patient education continues to be more personal and connected to technology, such as mobile phones, watches, and wearable devices. Education must meet the patient where they’re at and be available and optimized for digital channels.

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