At the heart of every health system is the need to deliver the best care possible to patients. At times, however, that can be difficult, with many potential obstacles standing in the way of delivering top-quality care. One of those obstacles is patient engagement.
An effective, joined-up patient experience requires not just the endeavor of the healthcare organization, but also the patient, who needs to be actively involved in their care journey. By utilizing proven patient engagement strategies, you can motivate your community to take ownership of their health and achieve better outcomes together.
What Does ‘Patient Engagement’ Mean?
Patient engagement is a concept that broadly refers to the mutual accountability and collaboration between patients and healthcare providers. It can be defined as the level at which healthcare clients are actively involved in decisions regarding their health, wellbeing, and care1. An engaged patient, sometimes referred to as an ‘activated patient’, is more likely to actively engage in gathering information and making decisions about their symptoms, illnesses, and treatment options2.
What Are the Benefits of Patient Engagement?
With staffing shortages, capacity issues, and subsequent burnout causing problems for healthcare providers, the benefits of successful patient engagement have never been more important and impactful. Here are just some of the ways your organization could benefit from introducing new patient engagement strategies:
- Effective patient engagement has shown to actively reduce missed appointments3, which reduces capacity concerns and aids in increasing revenue. No-shows create backlogs that not only increase staff workload but also frustrate patients.
- Educating patients is an extremely useful form of engagement. Patients with increased knowledge and understanding of their wellbeing take better care of themselves, leading to the general improvement of their health and a reduction in visits to healthcare organizations, further reducing provider workload.
- Through patient engagement, providers can gain more data and information on individual patients. As a result, they’re empowered to deliver more specific care, generating better health outcomes, improving patient satisfaction, and fostering strong patient-provider relations.
- 61% of patients want better patient engagement4, making it an offering that can not only increase patient retention but also attract new patients, too.
Five of the Best Patient Engagement Strategies
With patients wanting to be involved in their care, and engagement having clear benefits for caregivers and providers, now is the time for your organization to take advantage. Consider utilizing these five patient engagement strategies to benefit your health system.
Educate and Inform Your Patients
Arming your patients and community with important health information empowers them to self-manage their wellbeing and lead more healthy lives. This results not only in improved patient outcomes but also less provider involvement. You can educate your patients through various means, such as:
- Brochures and Leaflets
- Group Classes and Presentations
- Posters and Charts
- YouTube Videos
- Social Media Posts
Involve Patients in Decision Making
One goal of patient engagement is to ensure that patients feel involved and in control of their care. When possible, you must double-down on that impression by providing actual opportunities for patients to have their say.
Instead of simply telling the patient what is wrong and directing them on how to fix it, your clinicians should involve the patient more closely in decision making and establish the precedent that they are on equal ground. By making joint decisions on tests, treatment options, and care, you give patients a stake in their treatments, increasing their satisfaction and adherence and, ultimately, improving outcomes.
Integrate Technology and Digital Records
Take advantage of your electronic health records (EHR) to personalize your patient engagement efforts. By integrating your EHR with a CRM system, you can collect multiple sources of data — such as patient demographics, psychographic, social, behavioral, clinical, and provider credentialing — into a patient’s records5. Then, based on this information, you’re afforded a more comprehensive view of the patient and their habits and activities, and can tailor your engagement plan to achieve the best results.
Focus on End-to-End Communication
Communicating with patients should stretch beyond the boundaries of their visit to your clinic. Once a patient has booked an appointment, you should take the opportunity to engage them, using intake forms, pre-visit questionnaires, and appointment reminders. This not only reduces the likelihood of a no-show but also ensures the patient’s health is at the forefront of their mind. Requiring forms to be completed prior to arrival is also a preferred experience to patients rushing to fill out paperwork in the waiting room.
Naturally, communication during the visit is also key. Explaining diagnoses and treatments will help to settle the patient’s nerves. It also engenders trust between the clinician and the patient, which increases the chances of the patient following prescribed treatment plans and modifying their behavior.
Finally, you must follow up with patients after an appointment. This is especially crucial if you’ve given a patient a routine or instructions to follow, as engaging during aftercare is shown to improve adherence to clinician requests6. You may want to check in with patients regarding medication adherence, payment reminders, or conditions and symptoms to watch for7.
Use Preferred Channels of Communication
It isn’t enough to just increase the volume of communication you have with patients. You must follow a well-developed plan and deliver communications through the most effective medium for its intended audience. This is particularly important when you are trying to educate patients. Make sure that the type of communication is fit for its audience, and that it’s delivered through that audience’s preferred channel.
No matter the message you are trying to convey, you can drastically increase the chances of it being received, read, and acted upon by contacting patients through their preferred channels.
Patient Engagement: Everyone Wins
Using strategies like those outlined above establishes a relationship where everyone wins. Patients are more involved in their care, satisfied with the service they receive, and more likely to initiate and maintain healthy habits. As a result, your organization benefits by achieving better patient outcomes, increasing the number of engaged and happy patients, and reducing workload due to fewer visits per person.