Patients with lower activation associated with higher costs; delivery systems should know their patients' 'scores'

Health Aff (Millwood). 2013 Feb;32(2):216-22. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.1064.


Patient activation is a term that describes the skills and confidence that equip patients to become actively engaged in their health care. Health care delivery systems are turning to patient activation as yet another tool to help them and their patients improve outcomes and influence costs. In this article we examine the relationship between patient activation levels and billed care costs. In an analysis of 33,163 patients of Fairview Health Services, a large health care delivery system in Minnesota, we found that patients with the lowest activation levels had predicted average costs that were 8 percent higher in the base year and 21 percent higher in the first half of the next year than the costs of patients with the highest activation levels, both significant differences. What's more, patient activation was a significant predictor of cost even after adjustment for a commonly used "risk score" specifically designed to predict future costs. As health care delivery systems move toward assuming greater accountability for costs and outcomes for defined patient populations, knowing patients' ability and willingness to manage their health will be a relevant piece of information integral to health care providers' ability to improve outcomes and lower costs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease / economics
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Cost Control
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Health Care Reform / economics
  • Health Care Reform / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation / economics*
  • Quality of Health Care / economics