How can patient engagement help you improve healthcare outcomes?
Patient engagement in healthcare is the art of getting patients to get actively involved in their medical care pathways. It goes beyond the traditional patient-provider relationship and is focused more on encouraging collaboration and shared decision-making between healthcare professionals and patients. All patient engagement strategies are based on the belief that engaged patients understand their illness better and are, therefore, more inclined to follow their treatment plans. Improving patient engagement helps patients make informed choices about their health.
Strong patient engagement leads to better health outcomes and reduces hospital readmissions, surgeries, medical costs, and emergency visits. As patients are empowered to manage their health conditions effectively, there are fewer complications, better disease control, and an overall improvement in the quality of life. This, in turn, provides higher levels of patient satisfaction.
A healthcare environment which promotes health literacy has a positive impact on both patients and healthcare providers:
Patients enjoy a sense of autonomy and proactively engage in preventative behaviors: regular health checks, nutritious diet, regular exercise, adequate rest, and avoidance of risks like smoking, drinking, and taking drugs. Consequently, improvements in health issues deepen the bond with the caregiver.
Healthcare providers are enthused to deliver more effective care, communicate better, and win the patient’s trust, all of which result in optimized clinical outcomes. In return, physicians benefit from a reduction in no-shows and canceled appointments while winning patients’ loyalty.
This blog will explore different strategies and methods to enhance patient engagement in healthcare. The use of custom healthcare software products, educational programs, shared decision-making frameworks, and open communication channels contribute to improving patient engagement. The stronger the provider partnership with patients, the more patient-centered and effective the healthcare system.
Patient engagement means personalized care
It is easy to misunderstand what is patient engagement. Many think shooting a dozen questions to the doctor and having them respond is patient engagement. A doctor may spend 20 minutes explaining the prescription and all the dos and don’ts patiently, but that alone does not constitute patient engagement either.
Patient engagement in healthcare is a dynamic, collaborative partnership between patients and their families with healthcare providers. Both the patient and physician are committed to pursuing holistic, end-to-end care that is unique to every individual who is ill and to every illness that afflicts a person. Both parties are active participants, and the arrangement is based on healthy interactions and trust with the objective of achieving the best possible healthcare outcome.
Patient engagement broadly comprises effective communication, joint decision-making, responsible self-care, patient-friendly compliance, and truly compassionate practice.
When a physician explains the condition and the treatment protocols to be adopted, free and frank discussions on concerns, doubts, and questions in a patient’s mind pave the way for effective communication. Stilted conversations where the doctor is tight-lipped and the patient is tongue-tied mean a failure of communication. This does not bode well for patient satisfaction.
When a patient is actively involved in the choice of treatment and is able to speak up about preferences, values, pricing, and so on, the caregivers are better positioned to chart out plans. Joint efforts at tackling the medical problem yield better results, rather than prescriptions handed down and accepted with no discussions.
When a patient is knowledgeable about the ailment, a sense of responsibility will force adherence to medications, changes to lifestyle, and timely medical tests and reports, all of which also have a positive impact on healthcare outcomes. Self-help imparts a sense of dignity, while pity and dependence on others can have a detrimental effect.
When caregivers go the extra mile to make follow-up calls and send text reminders, emails, and alerts for refills through healthcare apps, they encourage patients to adhere to the medication regimen prescribed. Compliance is difficult to dictate when senior or chronically ill patients turn non-cooperative, “forget” to take the daily dose, or deliberately skip it.
When physicians really address the patient in front of them rather than the illness, there is true compassion. A humane approach to the treatment and cure of serious illnesses, putting both experience and expertise to use, is what one expects from doctors. Treating the patient as a passive subordinate is a hindrance to personalized care, where every patient’s needs are recognized as unique.
Higher patient engagement leads to improved outcomes Source: Spok.com
Patient engagement strategies to improve healthcare
Improving patient engagement in healthcare involves planning and implementing several strategies across primary, secondary, and tertiary care environments. Modern patient engagement strategies, in fact, broaden the scope to include other players like families, society, and government to play a decisive role. Technology-intensive patient engagement strategies are also gaining ground. Let us take a look at them one by one.
Patient engagement strategies across healthcare systems
Educate patients: Whether it is primary, secondary, tertiary or quaternary care, providing educational material in simple to understand language is a good strategy. Clinicians who use technical jargon, medical terms, and expert language are creating barriers to communication.
Unless providers make sure that patients have understood the full import of the diagnoses, medications and treatment plans, it is not possible to improve health literacy levels. Different formats –leaflets, seminars, webinars, newsletters, emails, phone calls, text messages, videos, and public service advertising may be employed to reduce adverse drug events, increase compliance rates, and promote behavioral changes.
Do you know that patients prefer to receive educational materials directly from a trusted, expert source – their own healthcare providers? However, a survey commissioned by Wolters Kluwer Health found that two-thirds (66%) of patients have questions after a provider encounter, and one in five patients (19%) has new questions following the appointment.
- Primary healthcare centers, typically neighborhood clinics, do not allow the demographics and communication skills of the patient to hamper interaction.
- If you are a provider at a secondary healthcare facility, where patients seek specialist opinions, provide peer support groups and coaching for self-help.
- At the tertiary care level involving large hospitals, give access to patients’ electronic health records, and include family in patient engagement.
- If you are a provider in quaternary care, do not neglect to brief patients on regulatory norms applicable to experimental or uncommon medications.
Patient engagement strategies for societal reach
Extend engagement: What was once seen as a relationship between a provider and patient is gradually spreading across a continuum –direct care, organizational design, healthcare education, and policy making. If direct care involves patients in the proactive management of a health condition, organizational design provides patients an opportunity to rate their patient experience and guide healthcare providers on improving quality and safety.
Patient stories are used as training manuals for practitioners who understand patients’ perspectives and notch up their motivation levels in improving patient engagement. Opinions of patients are also sought by policy-makers to draft regulations, shape research projects, and guide funding.
Do you know: A meta-analysis of findings from 54 studies (involving more than 31,000 individuals) by Regenstrief Institute confirms that caregiver engagement across healthcare transitions (for example, from hospital to home) of chronically ill adults is instrumental in preventing re-hospitalizations and holds potential for enhancing other patient outcomes.
- Collect retrospective feedback informally, such as online forms, informal surveys, focus group discussions, and anonymous interviews.
- Induct patients, their family members, or relatives in advisory committees and involve them in the design of patient-centered processes and systems.
- Co-opt patients to participate in research, either as data sources or in the design, planning, and execution of research projects.
- Provide representation to patients as a community in government panels that discuss and draft regulatory policies.
Patient engagement strategies to promote tech-tools
Employ digital tools: Patient engagement in healthcare is increasingly employing digital health tools such as telehealth solutions, patient portals, and mobile apps. Remote patient monitoring, sensor-enabled wearables, appointment scheduling, customer relationship management, and telemedicine are products of healthcare software development that redefine what is patient engagement.
Technologies that improve workflows, automate processes, increase transparency, and encourage collaboration and communication are improving patient engagement. The use of patient engagement technologies has transformed the healthcare model to anywhere, anytime and made it preventive, personalized, and participatory.
Do you know? Remote patient monitoring can improve patient engagement and empowerment in healthcare. A 2021 study in JAMA Network Open showed that patients with access to an at-home blood pressure monitoring tool, plus some health coaching, were able to lower blood pressure from between 53 and 85 percent.
- Invest in telehealth (video visits) technologies to ensure health equity by expanding patient access to care.
- Factor in patient health literacy levels, language preferences, notification fatigue, and privacy concerns when you customize healthcare apps.
- Leverage patient-generated health data to track patient outcomes and personalize treatment.
- Use smart analytics and data trends to identify best practices that align with superior clinical outcomes.
Success stories in patient engagement
Here are some real-world examples of patient engagement
- The Cleveland Clinic's MyChart Portal provides patients with secure access to their medical records, lab results, and appointment scheduling.
Following this, improved medication adherence, better disease management, and a notable reduction in hospital readmissions have been reported.
- Geisinger Health System's ProvenCare patients who undergo coronary artery bypass graft surgery participate in decision-making and access a 24/7 nurse hotline post-surgery.
Consequently, a 44% reduction in complications, shorter hospital stays, and 10% cost savings have been reported.
- Partners Healthcare's Connected Cardiac Care Program gives remote monitoring devices to patients who suffer heart failure.
These success stories demonstrate that patient engagement in healthcare not only leads to improved patient satisfaction but also has tangible effects on healthcare outcomes.