Understanding Patient Engagement: Benefits, Strategies, and Tools for Success
Please note: While Skedulo uses the term “patient” on this page to refer to individuals consuming healthcare services, we recognize this industry term may not be perceived the same way by all readers. Some may refer to a healthcare “client,” “consumer,” or “customer,” all of which are perfectly appropriate alternatives to “patient.” Our goal is to discuss patient engagement in a way that is informative for everyone and respectful to all providers and recipients of care, no matter the type of care or the manner in which it is delivered.
The healthcare landscape has changed drastically over the past few years, as ever-evolving technologies make it easier than ever for patients to access care. From remote patient monitoring (RPM) to wearable devices to electronic healthcare records (EHR) and more, mobile healthcare (mHealth) technology has completely transformed the ways in which providers can interact and engage with their patients.
But certain complexities have emerged along with this technological shift, particularly for healthcare organizations with mobile, fixed-location, or blended workforces, such as home healthcare companies. It’s true that mobile health offers myriad benefits to both patients and providers, but only if caregivers are able to properly engage their clients.
Modern healthcare organizations must adapt to ensure client engagement and overall success amid a changing market and rapidly evolving healthcare technologies.
What is Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement refers to the level at which healthcare clients are actively involved in the decisions regarding their health, wellness, and care. Higher patient engagement means care is more personalized, and the patient is more empowered to ask questions and request information about their treatment plan. This deep level of participation requires a partnership between the patient, families, and providers.
Although closely related, patient engagement is not the same as the patient experience. Patient engagement refers to a patient’s willingness and ability to interact with a provider, while the patient experience refers to how the healthcare provider met (or failed to meet) the patient’s expectations throughout the healthcare interaction. Better patient engagement often creates a better patient experience through communication and patient-centered care, but the two are not necessarily interchangeable.
At its core, patient engagement is a dynamic, strategic approach taken by healthcare organizations looking to provide holistic, end-to-end care. It’s important to note that patient engagement is not simply collecting information from patients, nor providing basic care solutions or options to those patients.
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The Benefits of Patient Engagement
The average patient trusts their healthcare provider to make accurate decisions on their behalf: After all, medical experts have the proper training and experience to advise their patients.
But patients must also play an active role in their own health to get the most from their care. It’s not enough to simply examine a patient, decide what they need, and send them on their way with a list of prescriptions and to-dos. Investing the time, tools, and resources to effectively engage patients results in a variety of benefits:
Decreases no-shows and cancellations
When providers invest in their patients’ health and provide seamless access to information, options, and care, patients are more willing to invest their own time, too. They’re empowered to fully access care plans, medical histories, and appointment bookings that work for their individual needs and schedules. That means fewer patients canceling appointments (or simply not showing up) because of scheduling conflicts.
Engaged patients are actively involved in their healthcare and are confident that each visit with their provider will be valuable and that their voice will be heard. Therefore, they’re less likely to cancel or miss appointments that they may otherwise assume are unnecessary.
Requires fewer visits to resolve issues
When both the patient and the provider have a deep understanding of needs, preferences, and care options, it’s less likely that key details will fall through the cracks. Information can be easily updated, accessed, and communicated on both ends, so superfluous visits aren’t needed.
Patients are also better prepared and comfortable enough to ask key questions, trust that the provider has their best interests in mind, and understand the importance of following through on care recommendations and requirements.
Ensures continued use of your patient services
Engaged patients become satisfied patients. When individuals feel supported by their provider, have a hand in their own healthcare decisions, and are empowered to continually improve their health, they’re more inclined to continue the patient-provider relationship.
As with any business, it’s imperative that your end-user has a great experience. With the healthcare industry constantly changing, you’ll need to keep up to survive. This requires providing high-quality care to patients (often in unique locations), adopting the right technology, and attracting and retaining talent.
By implementing an approach that focuses on patient engagement, you’ll in turn prioritize qualities that lead to an exceptional customer and employee experience, as well as patient loyalty.
Provides a competitive edge
The consumerization of healthcare has changed our understanding of patients as they receive services. Healthcare organizations who treat patients as active recipients—as opposed to passive ones—understand the importance of providing a highly personalized experience.
Engaging patients means respecting their time, providing easy access to crucial information, and fostering a more personal relationship. Companies who take this approach offer a better overall experience, which incentivizes patients to consume their services over businesses who don’t.
Improves back-office efficiency
Effectively engaging your patients means implementing tools that enable patients to easily access personal health information, self-schedule appointments, and ask questions about their care. Without the right tools, back-office administrators have to track and manage all of those key details manually, which is a time-consuming, burdensome process.
By focusing on engagement and investing in technology that improves your engagement strategy, patients can input and access their own data into a system that acts as a single source of truth. Back-office staff, providers, and patients are all empowered with accurate information that can be updated in real time. Administrators don’t need to waste time copying handwritten notes into another system of record or asking patients the same basic questions upon each visit. Everything is captured and stored in one digital place, so your back-office operations can run as smoothly as possible.
Strategies for Ensuring That Your Patients are Engaged
It’s clear that engaging your patients is crucial for remaining competitive and ensuring a great employee and customer experience. Though making changes in your process to fully engage patients can seem challenging, there are some proven strategies to help you get started:
- Streamline communication – Effective communication is paramount for healthcare organizations looking to better engage their patients. This can be particularly difficult, though, if you have a fixed-location, mobile, or blended workforce, as communication tools are often disjointed.
For example, if your employees are using email, phone calls, and text messages to communicate updates and details to each other and to patients, they’re likely making it unnecessarily difficult for everyone to get on the same page. Employees and patients must toggle between different apps to receive or share information, which increases the risk of things getting lost in the shuffle or patients becoming frustrated.
Instead, implement tools that enable effective communication in a single place, like an easy-to-use app that allows providers to send patients reminders to take medications, attend upcoming visits, or fill out healthcare progress forms. This results in more frequent communication between patient and provider, which builds a stronger relationship and can help providers identify health issues earlier on.
- Provide access to key resources – In the past, healthcare providers and administrators acted as gatekeepers of patient information and resources. This was largely due to compliance regulations, like HIPAA, which are in place to protect a patient’s privacy and health data.
But this also made it difficult for patients to be active participants in their own care, as they had to jump through metaphorical hoops to access their data. It would require an in-person visit or lengthy phone call, with a line of questioning to confirm their identity.
Modern tools have altered this process by offering secure, easily accessible platforms that still ensure compliance requirements, but do so in a much more patient-friendly way. Look for technology that allows your patients to view medical records, access educational resources, and update their personal details (i.e. insurance information, emergency contacts, health concerns, etc.) without having to speak to an administrator or schedule an in-person visit. Patients are thus empowered to take on a more functional role in their care, which makes it easier to engage them moving forward.
- Improve scheduling processes – Scheduling is, of course, a key part of any healthcare operation. But it can be quite a complex process if you have to schedule both fixed-location and mobile employees, who may each work during unique days or times. Your staff schedulers need to keep up both with the demands of patients and with the different types of schedules to which workers must adhere. This is made only more complicated if they’re still using manual scheduling tools, like spreadsheets.
Relieve your staff schedulers of that burden by taking the manual guesswork and inefficiencies out of the equation. Implement a modern scheduling system that is compliant, can handle time-sensitive and recurring visits, and makes it easy to accommodate the unusual, real-life scenarios often encountered by schedulers and providers.
Even better if your scheduling tool keeps an up-to-date record of your providers’ credentials and patients’ medical information, which will ensure that each patient is matched up with the right person for proper care. Your patients will be better engaged if they’re always met with providers who are on time, properly qualified, and totally prepared to deliver care for their unique needs.
- Automate, where possible – Human intelligence and touch are required for so many aspects of healthcare. But there are some parts of the process that are better handled by technology, like those that are predictable, repeatable, or high-volume.
For example, automating your scheduling process can reduce the manual burden felt by administrators, ensure fewer mistakes, and improve resource utilization. Powerful tools for automation can be easily configured to instantly match the right provider with the right patient and location, offer real-time route optimization, and even specify rules based on your unique business needs.
That kind of high-capacity, accurate scheduling means your providers won’t be double-booked or underprepared for patient interactions. Patients are consistently treated on time and by properly certified providers, which helps build stronger relationships and ensures excellent care at every appointment.
- Increase visibility and transparency – It’s not always easy to keep track of your workforce operations, especially if you have healthcare workers both in the field and in a fixed location. But lack of visibility makes it nearly impossible to understand your providers’ skills and training, monitor their locations and performance, communicate quickly to resolve issues, or have a comprehensive view of patient data.
Prioritize and improve transparency across your healthcare operations, which will give you key data about employee performance and location, resource availability, scheduling efficiency (or lack thereof), and patient details. You can only increase patient engagement if your organization itself is proactively engaged with employees and overall operations, and that requires complete visibility into how your business is working.
To make this as easy as possible, use tools that automatically track patient demand and preferences, resource location and availability, scheduling, services rendered, and provider and patient feedback. You can more effortlessly improve engagement if you have accurate information on what’s working, what isn’t, and what you’ll need to create more meaningful patient interactions.
- Integrate your existing systems – Most modern healthcare organizations are already using electronic health record (EHR) systems to track and manage patient details. But if that tool doesn’t work seamlessly with your other existing systems, you’re at risk for creating data silos, missing crucial information that can better inform business decisions, and hindering your ability to keep accurate records across the board.
Be sure to leverage technologies that can easily talk to one another (while remaining secure and compliant), which reduces duplicative data tracking efforts and ensures validity across systems. It’s time-consuming and costly to have to consistently manage and update your individual technologies, but optimizing for an interoperable tech stack can help you get the most out of your investments.
Patient-provider interactions are subsequently backed by accurate, up-to-date data, which can also be connected to systems like payroll, your EHR, and more so invoicing and other administrative processes are a breeze.
How Technology Can Help You Improve Patient Engagement
The mHealth market value is expected to grow to $316.8 billion by 2027, an astounding increase from its $11.5 billion value in 2014. This isn’t exactly surprising, as modern healthcare organizations have realized the importance of engaging patients, and have begun investing in technologies to help them do so.
Here’s how leveraging the right tools can take your patient engagement strategy to the next level:
- Eliminate workflow bottlenecks – A robust platform makes it easy to identify and resolve workflow inefficiencies, which are often caused by outdated, manual processes. By using tools that help providers (and patients) collect, store, and access data, you can eliminate time-consuming processes that otherwise prevent your mobile health workers from doing what they do best; caring for their patients.
- Ensure transparency – Today’s mobile workforce management tools offer real-time status updates, location tracking, and integration into your other existing systems. This makes it easy to plan for capacity, keep track of where your mobile health providers are, and make improvements to your day-to-day operations—all of which support increased patient engagement.
- Automate processes – Stop burning your administrators out by requiring them to complete repetitive tasks. Modern solutions can handle the complexities of a blended healthcare workforce and automatically create effective schedules that reduce no-shows and cancellations.
- Improve collaboration & communication – Your employees shouldn’t have to constantly switch between apps to communicate key updates, delays, or other workday issues. Empower them with centralized tools that help engage patients in one single place that’s easy to navigate.
- Offer a mobile-first, user friendly approach – Your mobile healthcare workers are likely always on the go, moving from one site to the next to provide care. Adopt tools that are as easy and effective to use on their mobile devices as they are for back-office workers using them on desktops. The tools your providers use should be built specifically for their unique needs, which means they’ll be fully supported in the field.
Improve Patient Engagement with Deskless Productivity Cloud
Your organization’s ability to fully engage patients can make or break your overall success: After all, engaged patients who have a proactive role in their care and positive patient-provider relationships are more likely to continue patient services.
Implementing strategies that ensure patient engagement is nearly impossible, though, if you don’t adopt the right tools for support. Skedulo’s Deskless Productivity Cloud is a comprehensive solution that handles workforce management, scheduling, communication, and more—all of which help your mobile healthcare providers better engage patients.