Essential Patient Engagement Strategies to Drive Better Outcomes
The old adage, ‘health is wealth’, still holds true today as it was when it was first coined. In today’s dog-eat-dog world, health is often overlooked and undervalued. It’s only when someone falls ill that we realize the preciousness of health.
Now, more than ever, pandemics and global health crises have made it necessary to cherish and look after our health even more. Good health has many benefits but maintaining it has become harder and harder to do. Our environment, lifestyle, and even the food we eat make it a challenge that causes health issues for people worldwide.
There is no escaping the fact that we will fall ill, but the effort we put into managing and overcoming that illness determines how effectively and quickly we can come out of it.
The level of engagement patients have with their healthcare providers and treatment can play a big part during treatment and be uniquely beneficial for the patient.
What Is Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement is the level of engagement shown by patients in looking after themselves. It is part of a broader approach to patient care where the patients are engaged in the treatment process by practicing preventive care and other activities like following drug regimens and exercise.
Patient engagement in healthcare puts focus on making patients and care providers work together to improve the patients health. Involving patients in gathering information to make decisions regarding their symptoms, diseases, and treatment procedures play an active part in their overall treatment and recovery process. Patients who take an active part in all of the treatment and recovery processes are said to be ‘engaged patients’. But the level of engagement varies from patient to patient and depends solely upon the individual patient.
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Why Is Patient Engagement Important in Healthcare?
Patient engagement in healthcare has become an important strategy to achieve better health-related outcomes for patients. Healthcare professionals regard patient engagement as a very valuable indicator to gauge the quality of patient care.
Quality patient care can have more positive patient recovery experiences and can also improve the physical and mental quality of life for people with serious or terminal diseases.
Listed below are 4 points mentioning the importance of patient engagement in healthcare:
1. Improved customer satisfaction
It’s only human nature to want to have a say in something which will have an impact on your life. This is especially true for a complex and specialized field such as healthcare. Giving patients a voice in their treatment options and involving them in the process will make them feel respected and valued.
Improved health outcomes and a sense of understanding between the patients and healthcare workers are more likely to generate positive experiences and overall satisfaction with their care. This will translate into loyal and satisfied customers.
2. Improves patient’s long-term health
Engaged patients are likely to be more focused on following through with their treatment regimen. They make better long-term choices when dealing with issues related to their health.
Engaged patients, for example, will be more regular in their scheduled appointments, screenings, tests, etc. The more engaged they are, the more likely they are to catch symptoms of diseases in their early stages and seek treatment. This will definitely help with a patient’s long-term health prospects.
3. Reduces waste
Engaged patients are more likely to make use of pamphlets and aftercare instructions. These would otherwise have been thrown away by lesser-engaged patients. Even life-saving resources like medicines, blood sugar monitors, etc. could be underutilized by unengaged patients.
Engagement tools like social media and search engines can also help foster patient engagement by providing information on the patients’ ailments. And lately, technology like smartwatches or smart bands and patient portals can help to reduce waste and help healthcare workers with their workload.
4. Reduces costs
Unengaged patients are more likely to cancel appointments, delay care, and be susceptible to unforeseen medical complications. All of these can lead to increased costs in the long run.
A study found that enhanced patient engagement brought down the cost of medical treatment:
- Total medical costs were 5.3 percent lower
- In-patient admissions were 12.5 percent lower
- Emergency visits were 2.6 percent lower
- Surgeries were 9.9 percent lower
- Heart surgeries were 10.9 percent lower
So from this, it can be seen that enhanced patient engagement impact both patients and healthcare workers.
There will be lesser cancellations and actively scheduled follow-ups. And since engaged patients take better care of themselves, there will be fewer visits to the health center as well. This will translate to lesser workloads for your employees too.
What is Patient Activation and How Does It Increase Patient Engagement?
Now that we know about the benefits of patient engagement, we should also know how to increase it. Before we go into that, we should learn a bit about patient activation.
‘Patient activation is the measure of an individual’s understanding, competence, and willingness to participate in healthcare decisions and processes which will be beneficial for him or her’.
Patient activation is a subset among other patient behavioral issues which is encompassed by patient engagement.
According to an article by Dr. J.Hibbard, an expert in defining patient activation, states; patient activation managed effectively has been shown to cut costs and improve care outcomes. When patients effectively manage their own health, they are more likely to obtain overall wellness.
The perfect end result of patient engagement strategies in healthcare would be an activated patient with positive care plan compliance. This would dictate whether a patient could make meaningful behavior changes to successfully manage their own health.
Patient engagement is likely to improve if a patient is highly activated as they are more likely to engage in positive health behaviors. This would ultimately lead to better health outcomes and higher engagement levels.
Patient Engagement Strategies for Increasing Patient’s Experience
Higher levels of patient activation lead to higher levels of patient engagement. But how exactly do we increase patient engagement? That’s why we should look at the 10 commonly used patient engagement techniques listed below to boost patient engagement in healthcare.
1. Automate patient engagement
Patient engagement and patient activation are very time-consuming things to do. It can be very challenging for a healthcare worker to manually manage each and every engagement.
Automating patient engagement and interactions is a strategy that can be very beneficial for both health care workers and patients. Your organization can automate patient education, referrals, appointment reminders, patient surveys, etc. through the use of chatbots and other AI-powered tools.
All this automation will also help your staff as they will no longer be burdened with doing all of these tasks. This will help your organization against staff shortages and burnouts.
By letting the patients have control over managing and scheduling their healthcare needs, your organization can create a better patient engagement level and increase patient satisfaction.
2. Segment patients
Classifying all patients as the same will get you nothing in terms of increasing patient engagement. The best strategy is to treat each patient as an individual. While this may be the most optimal recourse for boosting patient engagement, it’s not the most feasible, as it will take too away much time and resources from your organization.
Individual patients will have individual needs. Some may need more education on self-care while some may require daily reminders. The best way to deal with these issues is to segment patients.
They can be segmented demographically like, sex, race, age, level of education, medical history, etc. Other factors like a patient’s social environment like where they work, reside, etc. can also be taken into account.
All of this segmentation can help healthcare workers to come up with customized patient engagement plans targeting specific segments. This strategy is more likely to produce better patient engagement levels than a generic blanket patient engagement plan.
3. Identifying activated patients
For any patient engagement techniques to work, you’ll need to have higher-level activated patients. The more activated patients are, the more positively they will respond to patient engagement.
Many healthcare workers use PAM (Patient Activation Measure), a 100-point scale, to determine the level of activation a patient has. This tool helps health care workers in identifying an activated patient.
Many medical professionals ask patients to pre-fill this survey at the beginning of the appointment in the waiting room or online through the organization’s portal. They can then determine patient engagement strategies for the patient according to the level of patient activation the patient scored.
Less activated patients may not be on board with newer engagement technology and demanding health behavior changes. So knowing the level of patient activation let’s healthcare workers customize strategies according to their comfort levels, thus further encouraging and increasing their activation levels to boost patient engagement.
4. Accessible resources for patients
Digital patient engagement tools like patient portals are great platforms for sharing resources with your patients. Utilizing digital tools to enhance and increase patient experience and engagement strategy can be an efficient and useful patient engagement technique.
A single access point where patients can access information and solutions about their conditions, symptoms, recovery, and treatment procedures can lead to better patient engagement levels. Patients who are better informed about their ailments and the care required are more motivated to take control of their health.
Making resources like educational videos, brochures, demos, etc. easily available to patients through various channels and languages will help educate your patients to better take care of themselves. You can also automate notifications and reminders for your patients. These can have insights into why their pending appointments or procedures are important for them.
When patients know why they have to do all of those things, they’ll be more inclined to go through with the appointments. And once they start to invest in themselves, patient engagement is bound to increase.
5. Shared-Decision Making
Shared decision-making respects the rights of patients to have a say in the decisions about their health care. Though this is against the standard practices of healthcare, it helps to increase patient engagement and achieves greater patient outcomes.
These types of patient engagement strategies democratize healthcare. Rather than a system where the word of the health care worker is law, this system makes the patient and the health care worker work together. Both of them decide which tests to do, which treatment option to choose, and the after-care plan for the patient.
This type of technique involves educating patients about all the details of their illness and treatment options. At the same time, the health care worker too must listen and try to understand what the patient needs and wants.
This type of strategy can definitely increase patient engagement as well as improve the patient experience as patients have ownership in the decision taken.
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6. Deliver Continuous Care
Continuous delivery of care is very important for patient engagement and a positive patient experience. You shouldn’t only be interacting with them when they come to the health center. You should be engaged with your patients the whole year through.
Patient interactions should happen on a regular basis and not just when they require medical attention. Continuous care is an ideal way to help patients with preventive care measures. This is especially true for high-risk patients living with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, etc.
Regular engagements with patients can be sent reminders about their care plan or even reading materials curated specifically to their illness. The idea is to just be engaged with them.
Continuity of care makes patients feel valued and looked after. This will lead to them being more proactive toward their care plan. All of this will result in decreased hospital visits, increased patient engagement, and an enhanced patient experience.
7. Engage Aftercare
Give priority to aftercare. A discharged patient doesn’t mean they’re better and do not need further treatment. Aftercare is an important part of any treatment. It’s a part of the whole treatment plan starting from the time of first interaction with health care workers.
Unfortunately, most patients do not follow through with the aftercare part of their treatment and have to face complications. This part is usually misunderstood or ignored by patients. This is especially true when the after-care instructions are complex or require behavioral and lifestyle changes.
Complications arising from not following up on aftercare can lead to poor health, complications, readmittance, and in some cases, even be fatal.
Interactions during aftercare improve patient engagement, which in turn leads to following aftercare instructions. When you engage with patients during the aftercare phase of their treatment plan, you establish a relationship with them. They start to trust you more because they know you’re following up on them even though they’re not under your care.
You can manage your aftercare engagements by reminding them of their medication schedules and symptoms to be on the lookout for. You can also give them timely reminders about upcoming appointments and bill payments.
8. Use Preferred Channels
Patient engagement requires being able to be in contact with your patients. In this age of technology, there are multiple channels of communication that they’re able to use.
Offering them the option of being able to interact with your healthcare workers on a channel and language of their choice will go a long way in improving their engagement levels and patient experience.
Integrating omnichannel support into your healthcare systems will let you utilize all major channels like voice, chat, Twitter, WhatsApp, SMS, email, etc. to communicate. This will ensure that you will always be able to contact your patients no matter which communication channel they opt to use.
9. Automate Tracking
Knowing which phase patients are at in their treatment plan helps health workers to provide efficient and appropriate care. Automating your tracking system will help your employees easily keep track of your patients.
Automating your healthcare facility’s tracking system can be an advantage for you as well as your patients. It can manage the patient flow of your center, keep track of a patient’s treatment as well as improve bed turnover rates, allowing doctors to treat more people.
Automating your organization’s tracking system allows you to:
- Track patient visits
This system allows healthcare workers to share data across any healthcare facility. So, no matter where a patient goes for treatment, the primary physician will always have access to the patient’s data. Thus, improving the quality of patient care.
- Enhanced patient experience
These systems are perfect examples of improving patient care through technology. Healthcare facilities generally have a large patient turnover. Keeping track of all of them manually can be a herculean task. Unfortunately, most patient visits are usually one-time visits. Patients often ignore follow-up visits and end up with complications.
Automating your tracking system lets your employees keep track of patients through a patient database. It can schedule automated follow-ups and appointments for your healthcare workers while patients get notifications through SMS, email, phone, etc. about the same.
- Improved record-keeping
Since all patient data will be in one centralized database, there will be no duplicate and corrupt data. Various departments, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers can have access to a patient’s data in real-time. This vastly improves the level of care that can be given and also enhances the customer experience.
- Improved patient engagement
Tracking systems notify healthcare workers whether a patient showed up or not for an appointment. Your employees can follow up on the ‘no-shows’ through calls and emails on a channel of the patient’s choice.
These unscheduled interactions can make the patient feel cared for and valued. This can lead to a much higher level of patient activation and ultimately patient engagement.
10. Use patient’s feedback
Patient experience should be at the center of any patient engagement strategy. So to improve and enhance the patient experience, the best tool that you can use is patient feedback.
Conducting feedback exercises will help you to identify your organization’s strengths and gaps that need to be filled. Insights garnered from this patient feedback will let you know what you have to work on to improve the patient experience.
Even taking individual patient feedback and acting on them will go a long way in improving patient engagement.
When patients see that you take suggestions from them and work on it, they’re likely to be motivated to follow through on their health plans.
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Digitize and Automate to improve patient experience
Now that you know about successful patient engagement strategies, you should come up with one that meets the requirements of your organization. A robust patient engagement strategy should be designed with the patient at the center. Its goal should be to improve health outcomes, reduce costs, minimize barriers that patient’s experience while accessing healthcare and enhance the overall patient experience.
Implementing a health CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, like Kapture’s medical CRM can help you to achieve your goal of an improved patient experience.
Its automated appointment manager will help free your employees by automatically scheduling appointments, follow-up visits, and creating patient files.
Since Kapture conforms with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) directives, you can be sure your patient’s and organization’s data and privacy will be secure.
About the Author
|Elvis Richard Cormuz|
|Elvis hails from Darjeeling and has had vibrant work-life experiences – he is a musician, social worker, and freelance translator/transcriber, his hobbies include music, movies, and reading.|