Why is patient engagement so important?
A reality of the healthcare industry is that patients often feel a disconnect from their provider. It’s a scene that plays out every day in physician offices everywhere. But for a practice to be successful, the relationship between a patient and provider is essential. This critical connection starts with patient engagement.
What is Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement is a strategy that applies a patient’s knowledge and ability to their healthcare. This process allows patients to become more engaged in the decision-making process and make informed decisions with regard to their healthcare. The patient engagement journey often begins with a patient assessing themselves and their symptoms online. This self-directed research leads the patient to contact a healthcare provider.
A healthcare provider works with the patient to help assess any conditions present and provide a treatment plan, along with advice on maintaining better health in the future. This process then moves into an ongoing care plan between the patient and the healthcare provider, and in many healthcare settings, patient portals are used to accomplish tasks that would normally require a phone call, or even multiple phone calls to their physicians or medical staff.
Offering a patient portal provides the ability for patients to request appointments, referrals, and prescription refills directly, which not only increases patient engagement but it also increases the efficiency of your clinical staff, allowing them to keep their focus on assisting you with the patients who have the most urgent care needs and questions. The ultimate objective of patient engagement – and practice efficiency – is to create a lasting and engaged relationship between patients and their physician.
Benefits of Patient Engagement
Implementation of a patient engagement strategy creates a stronger, more beneficial relationship between the patient and the provider and is valuable to the individual parties as well. Patient engagement:
- Builds Trust: Building a relationship with the patient will make them more willing to see a physician when they’re feeling unwell. In addition to seeking care, they are likely to suggest a provider’s services to friends and family in search of a physician. In addition to seeking care, they are likely to suggest a provider’s services to friends and family in search of a physician.
- Opens A Dialogue: The patient feels heard and understood by their healthcare provider and walks away from their appointment feeling satisfied. The provider also acquires all the necessary information about their patient’s health and is able to provide a more effective, targeted treatment plan.
- Motivates Patients: By having a patient that is more in tune with their health, potentially severe health issues can be caught and treated sooner by a healthcare provider, not urgent care or ER. They are also more likely to maintain subscriptions and keep appointments when they have more accessible patient technology at their fingertips.
- Increases Revenue: Routine exams and tests allow providers to create a steady stream of medical practice revenue from patients. These patients trust the judgment of their healthcare providers and are more willing to pay for preventative tests and treatments.
Challenges of Patient Engagement
Patient engagement doesn’t come without its challenges. These challenges arise from both sides of the patient-provider relationship.
There is resistance from patients who are unwilling to learn more about their health and provide that information to physicians, whether it be due to mistrust of healthcare providers or general apathy.
Some providers prefer to stick to the traditional model of care, and are reluctant to change the way they treat and interact with their patients, or don’t feel that they have the technology and time to change how they communicate with their patients.
Once the provider identifies the challenges she or he face, they can develop a solution.
6 Ways to Improve Patient Engagement
- It is difficult for both the patient and the healthcare provider to move towards a different avenue of engagement. The tips below offer providers ways to engage patients and adapt practice management policies to better encourage patient engagement.
- An important component of patient engagement is communication and understanding their preferred communication channels. Today, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone with 26 percent being online constantly. Engaging patients before they need care through an email, a text, or a phone call can help increase the likelihood that they will share information with the provider when care is needed.
- When the patient comes in for a visit, engage them on a personal level beyond the scope of their health to build trust and create a lasting relationship. With social media usage increasing from 5 percent in 2005 to 69 percent in 2017, healthcare providers have more opportunities to engage patients online. This can be done by sharing helpful videos and tips that relate to a patient’s health.
- Provide patients with tips during their visit that can help them take control of their health and better manage their lifestyles.
- Organize classes that patients could benefit from, specifically, lessons/courses that can improve their health and perception of their health.
- Offer patient financing, payment plan options and different forms of payment methods. With the rise of smartphone and internet usage, patients are looking for easier ways to pay. Providing different payment options such as text to pay, online payment portals, mobile applications, and even automatic payments allow patients to take control of their health.
Patient Engagement is the Future of Healthcare
Informed patients are invaluable to a healthcare provider. By utilizing patient engagement in your practice, you will be able to treat a patient and create a mutually beneficial relationship more efficiently as well as increasing patient satisfaction. Engagement of this nature may seem daunting, but patient engagement is the future of healthcare.
What does your patient engagement strategy look like?