5 Strategies for Streamlining Patient Engagement in Health Care
Health care continues to undergo radical changes, transforming the ways patients interact with health care providers. In our modern age, patients expect to be involved in every step of the care delivery process, from initial visit to diagnosis and treatment. Health care administrators are tasked with streamlining the patient experience, using advanced strategies and integrated technology solutions.
To learn more, check out the infographic below, created by Regis College’s online Master of Health Administration program.
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The Key Components of Patient Engagement
It’s important for health care administrators to recognize the goals, touchpoints, and benefits of patient engagement before setting out to create a patient engagement strategy.
What Is Patient Engagement?
Until recently, patient engagement centered on the relationship between providers and patients in making care decisions and improving patient efforts to manage their own care. Today, health care administrators are looking for ways to integrate patients more broadly and take the patient experience into consideration.
This shift means increased recognition of a user’s rightful role, expertise, and valuable contribution to the design and delivery of care. Regardless of the extent of patient engagement, the goal of increased engagement remains unchanged: to improve the quality of care.
The Levels and Continuum of Patient Engagement
The three levels of engagement — direct care, organizational design and governance, and policymaking — extend across a continuum of engagement, which includes consultation, involvement, and partnership and shared leadership.
At the direct care level of engagement, patients begin the care journey by receiving information about their condition or illness. Moving on to the involvement stage, caregivers ask patients about treatment preferences. And finally, at the partnership and leadership stage, patients and caregivers make a treatment decision based on medical evidence, clinical judgment, and patients’ preferences.
The patient engagement level of organizational design and governance involves an organization asking patients to rate their care experience and act as advisers. In the final stage of this level, hospital safety and quality improvement efforts engage patients as leaders.
At the third level of patient engagement, policymaking, a public agency asks patients to share their opinions about a health issue, incorporates patients’ recommendations about research priorities to make funding decisions, and gives patients equal representation on agency committees involved in funding decisions.
Factors Influencing Engagement
Patient engagement is influenced by three categories of factors: the patient, the health care organization, and society.
The degree of patient engagement can vary depending on a patient’s beliefs about their role, health literacy, and education level. An organization’s policies, practices, and workplace culture can also shape patient engagement, for better or for worse. And finally, patient engagement can be either encouraged or discouraged by societal norms, regulations, and public policy.
Benefits of Patient Engagement
Engaged patients are better equipped to advocate for themselves and to actively participate in their care, leading to increased patient satisfaction, improved outcomes, lower costs, greater efficiency, and a higher quality of care.
Patient engagement can also lead to positive shifts in organizational culture, promoting increased patient engagement in service design and delivery, a more even distribution of power among patients and providers, the development of new competencies, and negotiation for service changes.
5 Patient Engagement Strategies
Health care organizations can take advantage of proven techniques and strategies to streamline patient engagement.
Techniques to Enhance the Design of Patient Engagement
Rather than rushing to create rules and regulations designed to promote patient engagement, health care administrators should begin by clarifying the objectives, roles, and expectations of patient and care provider engagement. Research has shown that giving users specific roles or engaging them in a steering committee helps them feel more comfortable with the team and process, leading to improved outcomes.
Health care administrators should also provide training to staff and patients, clarifying roles and responsibilities and helping patients understand the value of their contribution. And finally, managers and leaders must recognize and advocate for patient representation and engagement.
5 Strategies for Improving Patient Engagement
One strategy for improving patient engagement is to simplify information. Health care professionals must be able to provide explanations at a sixth-grade level to ensure patients understand important information.
Health care professionals can improve patient engagement by being specific and making sure the information they provide is easily shareable and available in multiple formats, such as written, audio, and video forms.
Another strategy health care professionals can employ when communicating with patients is to avoid making assumptions about patients’ health beliefs and take the time to make sure patients have a medically accurate understanding of health care concepts.
And finally, health care professionals should encourage patients to set goals. Patients are more likely to adhere to a treatment plan if they understand that they are pursuing an important goal.
The Role of Patient Engagement Technology
Health care administrators have a wide range of options when considering digital tools and technologies that support patient engagement.
Digital Platforms and Tools Supporting Patient Engagement
Patient marketing technology platforms can be used to educate and engage patients at the beginning of treatment. But to create a seamless patient journey, many health care organizations also rely on third-party patient services and plug-ins that provide supplemental patient services, such as sample delivery and copay card acceptance.
Other digital platforms and tools include patient services platforms, patient master and consent platforms, data management and integration platforms, and wearables and mobile devices.
Patient Engagement Opportunities
Patient platforms can support additional patient marketing and patient services capabilities, such as digital coaching, privacy management, telehealth, artificial intelligence, and crisis detection and response.
Digital coaching will allow patients to receive interactive care through their mobile devices and apps, while telehealth will allow providers to expand their offerings to include mobile-enabled hospice care and at-home care.
Benefits of an Integrated, Company-Owned Platform
Though many health care organizations rely on third-party vendors for digital platforms and tools to support patient engagement efforts, an integrated, company-owned platform can provide greater benefits, including greater control over the patient and provider experience, greater agility, greater operational efficiency, accelerated program launches, and greater data empowerment.
Looking Forward to a Healthier Future
With the help of advanced technology platforms and the support of leaders and managers, health care administrators can streamline patient services and improve overall outcomes — for both patients and organizations.