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Patient Engagement: What is it and How to do it?

Quick Summary: Patient engagement is nothing but the meaningful engagement of patients in their own care cycle in the form of self-care activities that include diet, medication, exercise, follow-ups, records keeping etc.

Asking questions regarding their health and getting diagnostic tests done on time is also what is called patient engagement. With the highest level of patient engagement, providers are more likely to deliver exceptional care which converts into results pretty fast.

What is patient engagement

To make patients the leading character of their care cycle, providers are leveraging patient engagement platforms or software as manual collaboration with hundreds of patients is not feasible. Because of its wide usage, the patient engagement software market will be worth $27.9 billion by 2027.

What is the role of patient engagement in healthcare?

All healthcare professionals are well-aware of their roles. They always go the extra mile to serve patients with the aim to recover them faster. However, it is not feasible for providers to keep eye on each patient for 24 hours.

Here is where patient engagement comes in. It enables patients to look after themselves while care providers are away, or after discharge – by following all self-care guidelines shared by their care team.

If a patient successfully engages in his/her care cycle, he/she is more likely to recover quickly with minimum efforts of providers. So this way, an engaged patient also helps providers to reduce the time they generally spend on each patient and invest this saved time to serve more patients.

Meaning, patient engagement not only benefits patients but also reduces the workload of providers and opens a window of opportunities to serve more patients which would lead to a shorter wait time to see a provider.

Apart from this, a higher patient engagement reduces the hospital stay and increases the number of vacant beds that can draw a line between life and death during the situation as we had in 2020 and 2021.

So, in essence, patient engagement has the power to solve some of the biggest age-old healthcare challenges our healthcare system has been facing.

Here sharing the care journey of an engaged patient so that you can understand how powerful it is.

Patient journey

Source: Telus Health

Why is patient engagement important?

As we discussed just now, the practice of high patient engagement benefits both patients and providers. The following are its top benefits.

Patient benefits:

  • Quicker recovery
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Affordable care
  • No diverse effect in long-term
  • Higher healthcare education

Provider benefits:

  • Enhanced patient outcomes
  • Fewer follow-ups
  • Time and cost saving
  • Access to medical data (recorded by patients)
  • Good mental wellbeing

Which are the different levels of patient engagement?

Here, it is worth mentioning that a patient can engage in his/her care journey based on his/her medical condition.

For example, a patient having severe mental health issues finds it stressful to engage in a care journey. So, in such cases, any family member or caregiver must make an attempt to make the patient engaged in the care journey or do it on behalf of the patient.

Hence, based on the direct or indirect engagement of the patient, there are major 3 levels of patient engagement.

Level #1: Patient

Here, the patient himself or herself is responsible for self-care and adherence to the guideline provided by the care team. Such a level of patient engagement can be executable when the patient is having manageable medical conditions.

Level #2: Family

When it comes to the patient engagement of seniors and kids, any of their family members need to engage with providers and make informed decisions on behalf of the patients. Here, it is important for providers to know who is the ultimate decision maker.

Level #3: Caregivers

Patients living alone or patients having severe healthcare issues are highly dependent on their caregivers. So, in such cases, their caregivers are responsible for looking after patients when providers aren’t around and helping patients to follow the self-care guides.

How to increase patient engagement? A step-by-step guide

We have observed that healthcare entities generally consider patient engagement enhancement as a task and execute it without any proper strategy. This leads them to extra complexities and poor patient experience.

Instead, the urgency is to consider patient engagement enhancement as a process which needs to be carried out precisely while keeping KPIs in mind. And since technology is very greatly involved in these strategies, several healthcare settings find it overwhelming.

Thus, let us present you with a guide on increasing patient engagement.

Step #1: Set a strategy accompanied by a vision

Consider you as an entrepreneur who is planning to launch his/her product by next month.

Do micro-planning. Calculate risks. Prepare risk mitigation strategies. Set KPIs. Hire experts if you are falling short of knowledge. Do an internal assessment. Validate your financial threshold. Know your patient’s needs.

Know their personas. Connect the dots. And be mentally, technologically and strategically prepared.

Step #2: Make your team and culture ready for transformation

Achieving the highest level of patient engagement requires collaborative efforts of providers, staff and patients. A patient alone cannot achieve it.

Thus, prepare your workforce for this change. Develop their mindset which is less about individual efforts and more about team efforts.

Inspire them to leverage technology for most of their operations. Train them on how to create an environment for patients in which they can freely engage.

Step #3: Choose the patient engagement solution

The fact is you will – in any case – require a platform (software) to achieve whatever you have planned in the first two steps.

Based on your budget, operation scale and future needs, choose between a custom patient engagement solution or 3rd party pre-built solution.

Whatever you choose, make sure it is easily accessible for providers, patients, their caregivers, family members and healthcare staff.

Step #4: Measure the performance or KPIs

Don’t go on blindly based on your gut feelings. Collect the data.

Evaluate it to find whether your strategy is working, where patients still find it overwhelming, are your providers getting any benefits, how much operating cost you are saving, how fast patients are recovering etc.

Once you have answers to such questions, you can easily scale up or down the patient engagement strategy.

Different technological solutions to increase the patient engagement

Manual healthcare operations are getting impossible with the increasing number of patients a provider handles every day. Severe healthcare labour shortage makes things worse. Thus, the only workable solution for any healthcare operation which needs to be carried out in mass is a mobile app or web app.

The following are the top technological solutions that can make patient engagement achievable and easy.

Patient engagement technology

1. Patient portal

A patient portal mainly exists in the form of a web app. By signing in to this web portal, patients can access all their medical information, prescription, lab results and appointment details.

Not only this, but patients can chat with the care team to have answers to their medical questions instantly. In addition to this, patients can make payments, read self-care guides shared by the care team and book follow-up appointments and lab tests.

2. Telemedicine app

A telemedicine app is a most easily accessible way for patients to have communication with providers. Advanced telemedicine apps are equipped with useful features that enable patients to engage in their care journey.

These features include medication management, reminder, patient journal, self-care guides, record keeping, and goal tracking along with several wellness features such as weight management, diet plan & tracking, exercise suggestions and tracking etc.

Here, it is worth mentioning that you can add these telemedicine app features to the patient portal and make it the most comprehensive patient engagement solution.

3. IoT-enabled healthcare app

One of the major challenges patients are facing is recording vital body signs and then saving it in such an organized way that providers can study and assess the effectiveness of care plans.

With an IoT-enabled healthcare app, patients can automatically record and track their vital body signs in a mobile app which can be easily accessible to providers from their dashboard.

This data is very important for making necessary changes in care plans which eventually lead to enhanced and quicker patient outcomes.

4. Healthcare-friendly texting app

This can exist individually or you can integrate it with other patient engagement solutions we have discussed. Using this app, patients can communicate and collaborate with providers seamlessly.

They can not only chat with providers but can also do voice and video calls, share medical images, other files, receive automatic reminders and guides etc.

Patient engagement solution = Patient portal + Telemedicine + IoT-enabled vital body data collection + Texting app

Patient engagement 2.0: Achieving it with advanced technologies

Even if you deploy a patient engagement platform to make things easy for you, many of the operations you and your patients need to do manually – now on that platform – which at some point restricts the ROI opportunities.

Thus, if you are really serious about engaging the patients and deriving good ROI at the same time, you must put some advanced technologies to good use. Here are some of them.

Patient engagement technologies

1. Automation

Be it discharge notes, self-care guides or answers to some of the common questions of patients, providers and staff have to work on it manually by investing their crucial time. Other several back-office tasks too which directly influence patient care need to be managed manually on a solution.

So, to help staff and providers get rid of these manual and tedious tasks even on software, you can implement RPA-enabled automation solutions which automatically perform their tasks and create time for providers.

2. AI/ML

The medical condition of each patient is different, and so are patient engagement activities. Providers have to assess a lot of factors to suggest post-discharge activities and guide to each patient. Chances are patients might not get what they are expecting.

So, to eliminate such error windows and patient dissatisfaction, you can leverage AI/ML. An AI/ML-led patient engagement solution automatically evaluates the needs of patients and shares personalized engagement activities which reduce the workload of providers and increase patient satisfaction.

3. Chatbot

A chatbot is a very tiny but lethal tool. Its use cases are so powerful that it alone can facilitate patients to engage in their care journeys.

A chatbot answers common questions of patients instantly and saves providers’ time. It also enables patients to book appointments and lab tests with a few clicks only.

In urgent medical conditions, it suggests required actions and can also share important resources instantly at very crucial times. It is a great tool for patient education.

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