Top 3 Tips to Increase Patient Engagement in 2021
Healthcare industries worldwide got a lot of attention over the last year with the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders got a chance to evaluate the processes that brought them big wins, in terms of patient safety and satisfaction, while bringing to light those processes that failed to deliver. With lessons learnt the hard way, 2021 promises to be a time of change and improvisation.
One of the key factors in care delivery is patient engagement. Systems and processes have come around full circle to focus on “patient-centric” care. Engagement can occur at any point in the patient’s journey with a healthcare provider, from immediate medical aid, to long term treatment and lifestyle support. It is dependent on meeting patients where they are, understanding their difficulties and finding a way to alleviate them.
It is clear that patient engagement leads to patient retention. Satisfied patients will come back to healthcare providers who have gained their trust and will go on to recommend the practice to others as well. That is why it helps to have the patient engaged, connected and involved in their own care.
Here are the Top 3 tips to increase patient engagement this year:
1. Digital Health Initiatives
The pandemic sped up the adoption of Digital Health services dramatically, worldwide, with data showing nearly 50-70% increase in use.
The growth of virtual consultation platforms were not limited to Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. Individual practitioners or organizations can also develop their customized platforms or applications to directPatient portals ly interact with their patients, through individualized patient portals. have also become ubiquitous with practices and healthcare organizations simply for the convenience it provides in terms of all round patient services, with the convenience of online appointment scheduling, payment options and access to investigation reports as well as e-prescriptions.
Digital Health platforms can integrate seamlessly with electronic health records as well as remote patient monitoring or wearable devices to provide the physician with a complete clinical and treatment history, along with live data of the patient’s progress, leading to timely interventions if required.
At the same time, practices should ensure that their communication pathways are secure and that their private patient information is protected from digital hacking, prompting an increased demand for health data security. A Massachusetts health center was hit with a 1.5 million dollar fine when it suffered a data breach and lost control of a mobile device that held sensitive medical records belonging to its patients.
Meanwhile, patient surveys conducted reveal that the community is quite ready to stick with telemedicine facilities, having experienced the convenience of negligible wait times or problems with traveling to the doctor’s office. Patients have also noticed that their physicians are more attentive during a teleconsultation than they would be in a face-to face appointment. A national Press Ganey survey revealed that 89% of patients would recommend their provider after having had a telemedicine visit, which indicates a high level of patient satisfaction.
It also helps that insurance companies are covering Digital Health services, making it more affordable for patients to use.
2. Patient Education Increases Patient Engagement
This is one of the key factors that drive engagement, because an informed patient is generally a satisfied patient. Being more aware of their conditions, about factors that may affect their health, their upcoming treatments or even how to navigate health and insurance systems, keeps patients updated and inspires them to take ownership of their care. Educating patients helps them to make informed decisions, and with this accountability comes a renewed compliance to treatment , which only benefits patient outcomes.
An online presence is almost a necessity these days. What are the ingredients to a great patient engagement strategy?
- A user responsive, mobile friendly website interface which is easy to navigate,
- A Social media presence that is warm, friendly, approachable and accessible
- An active Blog section or emailed newsletters that educate and simplify complex health information, and keep the patient updated on new treatment options for specific ailments
- Chat bots on websites or apps or constant support
- Showcasing testimonials or before and after case studies, or patient accounts that tell a story
- Including infographics, images and videos to communicate and educate
Leveraging online tools like social media platforms offer a lot more than branding and marketing strategies, which also have their value. However, a strong presence online reflective of the provider’s experience and authority in their field, increases patient confidence in their abilities and skill.
While healthcare experts have to be mindful of sharing information that can be misinterpreted as medical advice instead of just for information and educational purposes, these channels do allow for direct interaction with patients in a casual and personal way, which encourages them to ask questions they may be intimidated to ask in person. In this case, taking a step away from the doctor’s office, may be exactly what the patient needs!
3. Preventive Healthcare
The association of poor outcomes during COVID infections with long standing chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, has made the community aware about the importance of preventive health care.
Lifestyle modifications through holistic wellness coaching that include diet, exercise and mental health all play a big role in engaging a discerning patient. Even during a routine check-up if a physician enquires about a patient’s home and work environment and social support system, instead of just prescribing medications, it indicates that the physician is interested in the patient’s overall health and wellbeing.
Reaching out to the patient community is an effective way to promote lifestyle modifications and preventive health. Whether it’s through a local community club, or through public health initiatives or outreach in schools, offices or housing complexes, physicians and organizations that go out and meet patients in their comfort zones, usually rank high on engagement scales.
An interactive relationship, or better yet – a partnership – between patients and their doctors boosts trust and brings healthcare back to its core objective- improving community wellbeing, keeping the patient at the center of it all.
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- “Health Promotion and Preventive Care.” American Medical Association, www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/ethics/health-promotion-and-preventive-care.
- “How the Virtual Health Landscape Is Shifting in a Rapidly Changing World.” Deloitte Insights, www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/health-care/physician-survey.html.
- PatientEngagementHIT. “Why Patient Education Is Vital for Engagement, Better Outcomes.” PatientEngagementHIT, 19 Nov. 2020, patientengagementhit.com/news/why-patient-education-is-vital-for-engagement-better-outcomes.
- Sungchul Park PhD MPH ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-7546-96851, et al. “Adoption of Telehealth Benefits by Medicare Advantage Plans in 2020 and 2021.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, Springer International Publishing, 26 Jan. 2021, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-06535-1.
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- “What Patients Like – and Dislike – About Telemedicine.” Harvard Business Review, 8 Dec. 2020, hbr.org/2020/12/what-patients-like-and-dislike-about-telemedicine.