Why Is Patient Engagement Important
Patient engagement is an important part of successful healthcare delivery. Healthcare is a team-based sport, and patients are the central members of the team. Understanding how to engage patients as part of the team is crucial and is best undertaken from the perspective of the patient. Engaging patients and treating them as consumers is a challenge for some healthcare organizations. There needs to be an emphasis on shared decision-making and openness to feedback to have effective patient engagement.
Many studies have shown that engaging patients in their health care causes patients to have higher levels of satisfaction with their care, increased knowledge about conditions, tests, and treatment, and more realistic expectations about benefits and harms. They are also more likely to adhere to screening, diagnostic, or treatment plans, have reduced decisional conflict and anxiety, are less likely to receive tests or procedures which may be unnecessary, and, in some cases, even have improved health outcomes.
Patient Engagement Strategies
Three ways healthcare organizations can engage patients in their care are:
• Educate patients through verbal and written communication: Education is one of the top strategies to engage patients in their care, because patients who are educated about their condition and their choices feel more empowered to partner with healthcare providers in their care. Hospitals should educate patients through multiple modalities, including verbal communication and written instructions.
• Encourage patients to ask questions: Hospitals should also encourage patients to ask questions and discuss their care with their providers. Patients may not ask questions because they are afraid, or they don’t know what to ask. To overcome these challenges, hospitals could provide examples of important questions to ask healthcare providers and space for note-taking in its patient guide.
• Encourage feedback: In addition to providing information to patients, hospitals should also provide channels for patients to make comments about their care. Hospitals can promote patient feedback by directly asking patients about their stay; administering surveys by mail or phone; and establishing patient advisory committees to suggest or comment on changes, among other strategies.
Patient Engagement Tools
Telehealth is a capability that expands access and availability of care beyond the traditional visit setting. It provides multiple access points and convenient access to care to improve prevention, access, compliance, tracking management of chronic conditions, and management of low-level acute events. In addition to enabling a member-centric delivery system, it increases member satisfaction and reduces total costs to member, employer and system; reduce inappropriate utilization of ER and lower-level usage of urgent care.
An information portal is a system that houses holistic information and resources (clinical support) tailored to patient preferences. This system can range from access to specific diagnostic and clinical activity from a hospital and/or physician practice to a full personal health record that aggregates all patient information while also providing opportunities for patient-entered information, reporting, and self-management tools. These systems increase patient engagement, accountability, and satisfaction through greater access and control.
Tracking, Monitoring, Reminders, and Alerts
This collection of dynamic patient health information informs providers point-of-care decisions and engables patient self-management. Key components of these kinds of tools include health status monitoring and alerts, patient satisfaction/stress surveys, and self-assessment and triage tools for episodes of illness. These tools can function to promote compliance with preventive care, enable faster intervention, decrease event avoidance, help avoid more costly treatment downstream, and enable patient self management.