As a healthcare organization, your primary goals involve providing each patient with value-based care, an individualized treatment plan, and better outcomes. Engaging patients in their care can be just as important as the actual care you provide. Effective patient engagement in healthcare should boost patient satisfaction, improving health outcomes and your organization as a whole.
Patient engagement efforts aren’t always easy, unfortunately. Many pain points can arise during the patient journey that you may not realize. This guide covers what you need to know to develop a strong patient engagement strategy that covers all patient experience touchpoints for advancing health outcomes and organizational efficiency.
What Is Patient Engagement?
Before we dive into developing a patient engagement solution, let’s discuss what exactly this term means. Patient engagement is a patient’s desire and nurtured capability to participate in their individualized care plan in cooperation with their healthcare provider in a way that maximizes their outcome and overall experience. The single strategy involves a “triple aim”: to improve patient outcomes, patient care, and treatment costs.
Patient engagement derives from the complexity of modern healthcare organizations. Today, non-engaged patients struggle to understand their care, communicate with their providers, or even know what their diagnosis means. If a patient doesn’t know what’s wrong with them, how can they devote themselves to treatment?
Without health literacy, patient interaction fails, communication doesn’t work, and the overall level of care suffers. The responsibility here should not fall on the patient. In an ideal patient-centered healthcare system, according to the 2001 Institute of Medicine report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, healthcare providers should be “respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”
An engaged patient is one who understands their diagnosis and treatment, communicates with their healthcare provider, participates in their decision-making, and actively manages their care. Patient activation is when individuals have the tools, ability, and mental willingness to take their health care into their own hands.
Improved patient communication, activation, and decision-making ultimately lead to numerous benefits, which we’ll discuss next.
Why Is Patient Engagement Important?
Patient engagement drives better health outcomes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that a wide amount of available research supports the concept that engaged patients have improved health outcomes. Further research shows that patient engagement not only helps with patient care but can improve overall care costs, making healthcare more accessible.
Based on the wealth of research surrounding the topic, an increase in patient engagement technology and efforts throughout the health system could improve population health at scale. Patient engagement should be a critical aspect of focus in your practice as it can boost outcomes, health equity, patient satisfaction, and general organizational success.
Engaged patients should be able to make their own decisions regarding their health. Decision-making builds provider trust, collaboration, and an investment in their own success. As a healthcare professional, achieving such a level of engagement at your practice means you’re delivering the most dedicated and thorough care possible.
Patient engagement can offer the following benefits:
- Reduced no-shows
- Increased appointment scheduling rates
- Better decision-making abilities on the provider’s end
- Cost-efficient outcomes
- Better employee satisfaction
- Improved patient reviews
- Improved practice reputation
- Reduced waste in unnecessary aftercare instructions
- Reduced unnecessary readmissions
Patient Engagement Strategies
Now that you understand what patient engagement is and why it’s important for healthcare providers, let’s go over how you can implement it in your practice. Patient engagement strategies revolve around educating, equipping, and empowering patients with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful with their care. Your practice can focus on four primary engagement pillars to improve patient engagement.
Patient engagement begins with successful communication. Your patients need to understand their diagnosis, treatment, options, and appointments moving forward.
The key to communication is speaking to your patients in a human way. Doing so can be more challenging than it seems. Healthcare providers often get caught up in paperwork and complex terminology that makes it easy to lose sight of the simple words that patients need to hear.
Here are a few tips for improving communication at your practice:
- Deliver information in a simple way: Patients typically don’t need to hear the complex biological reasoning behind their diagnosis unless they ask. When explaining any diagnosis, treatment, medication, or other information, try to keep your language simple, clear, and to the point.
- Explain all treatment options: Decision-making is a primary pillar of patient engagement, though communicating decisions properly is just as important. Treatment decisions affect the patient, so the patient should be involved in the decision. Communicating all pros and cons of each potential option carefully empowers patients to make decisions on their own.
- Reach patients through their preferred channels: Communication shouldn’t just occur during in-person visits. Reach your patients through their preferred channels, like texts, phone calls, and emails, to help them easily access support whenever they need it. You can use patient engagement technology, like our Weave Medical Software, to easily integrate intuitive communication, like texting.
- Ask patients if they have questions: Patients should feel comfortable asking their providers any questions they have regarding their care. Encourage your providers to ask patients if they have any questions throughout the process.
- Provide reminders: Sometimes, patients simply need reminders of their upcoming appointments so they can keep up with their recommended care plan. With Weave, you can automate personalized appointment reminders that keep patients engaged while ensuring that your practice keeps its schedule full.
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Proper education empowers patient literacy, which ultimately leads to successful decision-making. So how do you properly educate patients? Successful education goes far beyond handing out pamphlets; it involves ensuring that patients truly understand the material you’re giving them.
Try implementing these tips in your education strategy:
- Get to know the patient first: Understanding who your patient is on a personal level can help you educate them in a more interesting way. For example, if they enjoy hiking, you can teach them different ways they can integrate their ankle injury physical therapy into outdoor activities to help them remember what you’re teaching them.
- Consider the patient’s educational strengths or limits: Patients may have varying mental, emotional, or physical impairments that prevent them from learning. Your practice should accommodate all potential strengths or weaknesses by offering various multimedia programs that cater to everyone.
- Include family members in the educational program: A patient’s support system can be their strongest healing tool. When appropriate, you can ask the patient to invite and include family members in treatment programs for ideal support during their healing journey.
- Use technology: Pamphlets and handouts quickly get crumpled and thrown in the trash as patients go on with their days. Instead, try using more convenient patient engagement tools for your educational materials. You could send treatment instructions as videos, interactive guides, step-by-step articles, etc.
Enabling patients’ ability to make their own decisions regarding their care is the ultimate form of patient engagement. Doing so requires successful communication and education, which we discussed above. Your practice can take the decision-making pillar a step further by following these simple steps for shared decision-making:
- Consider the patient’s personal goals: Healthcare providers often overlook the fact that patients have individual goals. Aiming for the best result possible is too vague. You need to consider what that means for your patient, whether it’s making it to their next sporting event, walking their child down the aisle, or resting comfortably at night.
- Outline the pros and cons of treatment options aligning with their goals: If you can understand your patient’s goals, you can have an easier time helping them weigh their options in a contextual way. Try to explain the pros and cons of each option based on their ultimate outcome goal.
- Allow the patient to make a decision: Once your patient can view how each option will or will not help them reach their goal, they should have the tools necessary to make their own educated decision.
Self-Management and Treatment
The final pillar of patient engagement is self-management. Engaged patients should feel inspired to complete their treatment plans at home following their provider’s recommendations. You can encourage this in numerous ways, including the following:
- Provide clear instructions on what the patient should do.
- Explain how the patient should or shouldn’t respond to their treatment.
- Offer a convenient patient portal for digital treatment access.
- Check in with the patient through your patient engagement platform to see how they’re doing.
- Involve the patient’s family in at-home treatment plans.
- Give the patient access to their digital health record for easy monitoring.
Digital Patient Engagement
Aside from these basic pillars, your practice can also boost patient engagement by incorporating digital tools. Digital patient engagement aligns convenience with education and communication for ultimate patient activation. Read on to discover our top tips on digital ideas you can adopt.
A large aspect of patient engagement is making care convenient and accessible when patients need it most, which is often on the go. Healthcare organizations can implement mobile solutions to help patients get involved with their care regardless of where they are. Here are a few ideas:
- Texting for appointment scheduling or provider communication
- Appointment reminders
- Digital forms to reduce in-office wait times
- Treatment reminders to boost self-management
- Remote monitoring
- Access to electronic health records
Weave Medical Software combines all of these features in one convenient package. Your team can access valuable patient data, and your clients can take control of their care.
Patient Education and Self-Management
Many digital tools can help with out-of-office patient education and self-management. For example, your practice could send videos to clients, showing them how to do their physical therapy from home. Such videos not only offer visual learners a valuable tool but also serve as a critical treatment reminder.
The idea list goes on from here. Your practice could regularly send updates on how to use different medications, when to schedule behavioral health appointments and more. You can even send a survey to your patients asking what types of patient education tools they’d prefer as a starting point.
People get busy or sick and often struggle to find time for their scheduled appointments. Telehealth visits are an excellent way to help patients still access care when they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Healthcare organizations could offer video calls, phone calls, or secure chat options so patients can meet with their providers when they’re out of town, feeling under the weather, or prefer to stay home.
Telehealth visits can benefit both your patients and your practice by boosting satisfaction and care effectiveness while increasing scheduling rates and revenue flows. You may be able to reduce a large number of cancellations with this simple solution.
What Is Patient Engagement?
Why Is Patient Engagement Important?
Does Patient Engagement Improve Health Outcomes?
Improve Patient Engagement with Weave
At Weave, we offer patient engagement software that can help your practice communicate with patients, engage them in their treatment plans, and empower them to actively become involved in their care. Schedule a demo today to see how Weave can help boost patient engagement at your practice or call our team at (866) 308-2039 with any questions.