In the healthcare system, patients have played a passive role as they believe physicians have a better understanding about their medical conditions and treatment options. However, since the past few years this perception has changed.
Healthcare professionals now aim to actively engage patients in their own well-being and health care. Patient-centric approach not only empowers patients but also helps to improve their knowledge, and information about overall various health problems.
Patient engagement is becoming popular across all kinds of healthcare settings. Despite the popularity, engaging patients in the processes of their health care is an issue of concern in various healthcare systems.
Patients who are not actively involved (least engaged) in the care processes are expected to delay care and have unfulfilled medical requirements. Due to limited knowledge and awareness about their medical conditions’ patients may remain negligent from their care.
By taking into consideration the patient’s experiences and viewpoints, patients will be actively involved in their own process of care.
What are Patient Engagement Strategies in Healthcare?
Patient engagement strategies combine patient activation with interventions designed to increase activation and promote positive patient behavior, such as obtaining preventive care or exercising regularly.
Patient engagement cuts across the continuum of care. It involves more than implementing a few new digital initiatives; instead, patient engagement calls for a complete rethinking of how providers connect with their patients, wherever they are. It requires a true commitment to changing patient behavior.
Patient engagement is not about creating new digital resources, instead it aims to increase activation that alters the patient’s behavior. An attempt to completely modify the way providers connect with their patients beyond the traditional continuum of care.
With the growing attention towards creating a patient-centric industry, it becomes critical to develop effective interventions that drive patient engagement.
The Importance of Patient Engagement Strategies: Why They Matter
Interventions to enhance patient activation are necessary for building patient engagement.
Reduced cost of care
Currently, patient engagement solutions such as remote patient trackers and telehealth, enhance health outcomes, thereby improving usage of health systems by decreasing emergency department utilization and readmissions. Overall, reducing cost of care.
Automated clinical operational work
Automation of routine clinical tasks has the potential to transform the healthcare industry including patient onboarding, patient’s report and data collection, providing prescriptions, and bills and claims management. Repeat tasks that are prone to error can be effectively handled through automation.
Reduced no-shows and cancellations
Patients who are least engaged are twice more likely to cancel their appointments and delay care.
If providers plan and invest time in creating a healthy engagement approach, patients will also become more consistent in improving their health outcomes. As a result, engaged patients reduce cancellations and no-shows.
Higher patient retention
Patient’s loyalty depends on three important elements: provider empathy, care collaboration, and patient-provider communication. Patient engagement ensures that all these components are delivered effectively during each interaction
Better patient experience
Patients will have a better healthcare experience when they realize that more resources and adequate time was devoted so that they can make better decisions about their health.
Improved health outcomes
Patient engagement strategies engage patients in their own care that improves health outcomes. An engaged patient consistently follows self-care behavior & avoids addictive habits with more awareness on the possible outcomes.
How to Implement Successful Patient Engagement Strategies in Healthcare
Now that we know the utility of patient engagement, it becomes significant to understand how to implement an effective strategy.
Map Your Patient Journey
Each patient has a unique healthcare journey, which requires a unique communication approach. Providers should deliver patient-centric care where patients feel comfortable and are able to express their concerns. In order to attract and retain patients we need to share the right information through the right channel.
Patient engagement strategy should be customized to understand their medical history, what motivates them and how to engage them through their preferred channel.
Patient’s journeys consist of several interactions prior to receiving a treatment: Pre-visit, during visit and post-visit.
- Pre-visit includes selection of a clinician, and scheduling an appointment with the doctor
- During visit includes delivery of care from the clinician and staff
- Post visit includes process of discharge, billing of medical treatment, and post-care instructions that are received from the clinician or nurses
These visits play a significant role in determining a patient’s expectations, comfort level, and retention. For example, user-friendly online patient portals, websites and apps help to streamline patient journeys. In this way, patient flow can be enhanced without compromising the treatment quality.
Every patient interaction or touchpoint can create a positive or negative experience, as it comprises a part of the patient journey map.
Mapping of patient journey includes the following steps:
- Clear communication between the patient and clinician to create a framework of steps involved in a particular treatment. It will help to build a model to improve patient experiences
- Understand the actual processes required for the treatment. By gaining insights into the actual journey, the patient’s end goal can be achieved.
- Discuss with the key stakeholders the gaps in the map that exist, in order to improve patient’s satisfaction. Solution to their pain points is necessary for a better healthcare experience
- Track patient’s feedbacks regularly to design an updated model for patient journey maps
Set the Stage for Stakeholders
Any engagement initiative can be successful if there is proper alignment among different stakeholders, including physicians, operational leadership and other individuals who are involved in patient care management.
Before implementation of strategies, every stakeholder with their core staff and patients should be involved in developing the program. People who handle the day-to-day operations are more likely to adapt to the changes if they are also involved from the very beginning.
Stakeholders can work together to make it a smooth transition by following these steps:
Stage 1: Planning and designing
Program staff should inform the senior leaders about the planning steps so that their expertise can be put to use. This will also help the leaders and important stakeholders to proceed correctly with the program goals.
Stage 2: Implementation and evaluation
Next step is to communicate the success and areas of improvement among all the stakeholders to maximize the effectiveness of the program.
Automate the Workflow, Wherever Possible
Workflow automation can smoothen the patient journey by effectively streamlining manual processes. Digital tools and software could perform the tasks quickly, providing a more pleasant patient experience.
Automation is not only limited to notification on a patient’s phone. Automated tasks become more meaningful when resources enhance patient engagement across all the healthcare channels.
The approach is easy to implement across various interactions:
Manual admission process is time-consuming and filled with paperwork. With the help of imaging software, patient’s health data can be collected faster. It will also minimize the scope of human errors. Document imaging software are accessible to specific authorized staff or via credential-based authorization.
Point of Care
The multifunction printers (MFPs) that are used at point of care help to evaluate the diagnostics and share the information. However, due to security vulnerabilities they have their own limitations
With the adoption of automated security, MFPs can control electronic and manual paperwork effectively. It will reduce the errors associated with manual work, thereby avoiding non-compliance risks.
During discharge, patients receive several documents such as hospitalization summary, diagnosis or lab results, prescriptions, and discharge orders. Automation in the workflow will protect patient’s information through features such as user authentication. Each document can be accessed by authorized members during discharge. By unlocking the MFD, patients can get a print of the selected documents.
Depending on the expected outcomes and measurable goals, the tasks should be automated. Organization should assess baseline data during the planning phase. Once a platform is launched, the patient engagement metrics should be regularly updated, reviewed and organized to refine the processes and enhance a patient’s experience.
Allow Patients' Access to Their Healthcare Information
Patient activation levels can significantly improve if patients are educated and informed about their health status.
The Interoperability and patient access regulation now enables safe and secure exchange of patient’s data through a reliable framework. Electronic health information can be received in a patient-friendly manner.
Hence, the healthcare provider should aim to improve the efficiency, quality and service as patients have increased access to their health information.
Updating IT services
Technical requirements can be fulfilled if the apps are regularly updated. Consumers will be able to check their electronic health information. A secure, standardized programming interface (API) will make it simple for the patients to access their medical claims, treatment costs etc. through online portals or apps.
Patient access API will provide an easy transition if the patient moves from one healthcare provider to another across different healthcare settings. Integration of patient’s health plan information to EHR will be effortless.
Allow Online Scheduling and Prescription with Telehealth
Conventionally, during in-person visits the doctors and patients have to dedicate the same amount of time to conduct check-ups or performing tasks. Additional time is investing in booking the appointments and traveling.
Importance of telehealth
- Providing online appointments to patients to conduct routine check-ups and answer their questions will decrease the need for in-person meetings.
- With the help of digital tools and telehealth services, patients can schedule their appointment through patient portals. This will automatically reduce physician’s burden of examining the patient, as information can be stored that can be reviewed at a suitable time.
Minimize Barriers to Care with Virtual Care/ Remote Patient Monitoring
Patients residing in remote locations face challenges to attain adequate access to healthcare services. With the innovations in patient engagement technologies, virtual care is now becoming popular in rural and remote locations.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) tools are improving healthcare accessibility to people who were unable to access medical services. RPM provides the opportunity to maintain provider-patient relationships during situations when an in-person visit may not be feasible.
A continuous approach of care delivery is critical. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a helpful way to achieve this. For example, RPM allows use of medical devices such as blood pressure cuffs, glucometers etc. that monitor parameters when a patient is not under a doctor’s supervision.
Virtual solutions are supporting patients, creating personalized care plans and making it possible to deliver care at the right time to populations with healthcare scarcity.
Final Thoughts: The Patient Engagement Continuum
An omni-channel patient engagement is becoming an integral part of the healthcare industry. The benefits of creating a patient first approach are visible in all aspects of a patient’s life such as improved health outcomes, better patient experience, and reduced costs of healthcare. Having a digital patient engagement strategy in place will not only build a better healthcare environment, but also improve the patient experience.