The effectiveness and efficiency of clinical services relies on a patient’s engagement and participation in their care. When patients are more engaged, it means:
- providers can make better decisions regarding a patient’s health
- more positive patient-provider relationships
- improved health outcomes
- fewer no-shows
- increased patient retention
It’s safe to say that patient engagement is fundamental to healthcare success. Overarching strategies for patient engagement are multi-faceted and can be complex. As well as meeting patient needs, they must also work for healthcare organizations and the teams that work in them.
So, what contributes to successful patient engagement?
Here are our top five strategy essentials.
1. Keep information specific and easy to understand
Everyone wants to be able to access timely, reliable, effective, and safe healthcare when they need it. To get the best from healthcare, patients need adequate information that is easy to understand so that they can participate in the decisions that affect them.
Patient information includes treatment options and details about their condition, as well as practical guidance, such as where patients need to go, at what time, and what they can expect during their visit to a healthcare facility. All this information must be communicated simply and clearly through the right channels.
Improving health literacy is also central to patient engagement and this can only be achieved if information is accessible and easy to understand. Delivering simple information in written, audio, and video form, either in-person or online, is empowering for patients, and is more likely to transform lifestyles and habits.
2. Make it personal
Personalizing information (both on paper and electronically) is now a central tenet of effective patient engagement. McKinsey reports on the role of personalization in the care journey. Their research in the healthcare industry found personalization leads to better patient experience, higher quality of care, and a reduction in avoidable healthcare costs.
Personalization has become increasingly important through the COVID-19 pandemic. McKinsey argue that this reflects “the shifting nature of care as well as consumer openness to engaging in different ways.”
How providers engage with different groups is also important. McKinsey’s researchers looked at different socioeconomic patient groups – they found that patient preferences around communication differ significantly.
By segmenting patients with insurance and focusing on two well-represented consumer personas, they were able to study differences in risk profiles and potential approaches to their engagement. One group (which skewed older) preferred to be engaged post-care via email and wanted help in facilitating appointments for follow-ups, as well as transportation.
The other cohort (which skewed younger and had a lower income) needed to be engaged during the healthcare visit and benefitted from step-by-step instructions.
Personalized interactions help to build trust – a fundamental aspect of patient engagement. The human side of care matters to people and personalization is a big part of this. Each patient is unique – your communications with them should be unique too.
3. Embrace technology
If there’s one positive to come out of the pandemic for healthcare providers, it is the acceleration in the use of digital technology. Technology speeds up communication, enables data to be gathered and analysed (vital for improvements), and ensures patients can instantly gain access to the information they need. Digital platforms are increasingly popular in the realm of consumer healthcare. Patients want a sophisticated and user-friendly digital experience.
In the Covid landscape, patient flow safety is also now paramount. Technology has provided some solutions.
PatientTrak, for example, has developed Text Messaging, Online Reservation and Text to Sign-In solutions to create a virtual waiting room. The platform directs patients to sign-in from outside the healthcare facility and informs patients when they are ready to be seen.
Automated text and phone call reminders about appointments, billing information, lab results, or upcoming services are also a critical feature of patient communication and engagement.
Healthcare providers must determine how different patient groups prefer to communicate and respond accordingly.
As far as technology goes, there are also great strides being made in the marketing and reputation side of healthcare. Wait time, for example, is the number one driver of patient satisfaction, but simply measuring how long a patient has waited doesn’t actually tell you how the person feels (one person may think it OK to wait 45 minutes, another may be tetchy at a 15-minute delay).
Gathering and analysing subjective data – real feedback from real customers – is where providers can make great gains.
4. Listen to feedback and build reviews
Capturing feedback from any source and turning it into actionable information is a vital process for improving patient satisfaction, which relies on operational improvement.
But how do you know what to improve if you don’t have accurate information? PatientTrak’s automated, HIPAA compliant survey service enables providers to take complete control of patient feedback.
Patient reviews are also a big turn on or turn off for prospective healthcare consumers.
5. Understand the systemic and personal barriers to patient engagement
Systemic barriers to patient engagement include poor use of technology and inefficiencies in how a facility is set up. This can, for example, include the design of a building or lack of parking. Having visibility of workflow is crucial for understanding and alleviating the barriers and bottlenecks which impede how patients engage.
Personal barriers tend to revolve around education – patients with limited health literacy and/or a lack of awareness about their condition are more likely to be disengaged. The deterioration in pre-existing health conditions and a lack of interest in seeking out information are other factors that may impede patient engagement. Cultural barriers also exist – consider the difficulty for patients of non-English speaking backgrounds in negotiating care.
How healthcare professionals relate to patients can also act as a barrier or an enabler. Negative attitudes about sharing safety information or high workload can prompt a reluctance from staff to fully engage with patients, so attention should also be paid to employee engagement.
There are lots of aspects of the patient journey to consider. Visibility is key.
PatientTrak offers an all-encompassing cloud-based digital platform supporting the key pillars of patient engagement. We give health care organizations a 360° view of what is happening on the ground.
We help meet growing demand, improve patient engagement and deliver better patient outcomes. Contact us today for more information.