What Is Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement is a broad blanket term that can be used to define everything from patient portals to the strategies that medical offices use to navigate their social media.
In a nutshell, patient engagement is any activity or tool a medical professional can use to engage people and get them involved in their own health care. What does this mean for doctors and specialists, and what can these professionals do to improve engagement?
Patient engagement has been practiced for decades, but it has evolved as technology changed. Patients expect to get customer service 24 hours a day, which is difficult to do when the office is closed after 5 p.m. on weekdays and on the weekends.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the office needs to be open 24 hours a day – but an online presence could help patients feel like it’s open all the time. It just means patients need to be able to engage with their doctor’s offices on terms that are convenient for them.
The Four Principles of Patient Engagement
According to industry experts, there are four principles of patient engagement:
- Willingness: Is the patient willing to be engaged in their own healthcare management?
- Proactiveness: Is the patient willing to be proactive about their health care? Many people, especially older patients, might prefer to leave health care management to the professionals.
- Adaptability: Is the patient willing and able to use computers or smartphones to interact with the practice during off hours?
- Support: Is there enough support available to help the patient stay on track and be proactive about their health care?
Whether a patient is willing and able to be proactive about their health will depend on the patient, and will need to be assessed on an individual level. Not all patients are willing to take that responsibility or have the technical aptitude to access the tools provided to them.
Improving Patient Engagement Close to Home
What can offices and staff do to improve patient engagement closer to home? There are quite a few tools that can be utilized, though some might take a substantial investment of time and money.
- Utilize social media: Social media is a fantastic tool for patient engagement if used correctly. It needs to be carefully navigated to ensure no protected patient information is shared over social media, but it can engage patients, especially younger ones, in a way other tools might miss.
- Provide and utilize patient portals: Portals give patients a way to keep track of their medical records and treatment. These portals can also be used to allow patients to pay their bills online, which saves practices time and money. Upwards of 60 percent of adults prefer to pay bills online, and offering online bill-pay can reduce the need for follow-ups.
- Create and maintain a patient communication platform: Not every patient can afford to take the time to make a phone call or come into the office when they have a question, whether it’s about billing, medication or anything in between. Having an easily accessible and secure communications platform can help patients be more proactive about their health care by giving them the answers they need quickly and correctly.
These are just a few potential examples of ways to improve patient engagement in local offices. The exact implementation will vary from office to office to better cater to the needs of each patient.
Patient engagement is quickly becoming the future of medicine, largely by necessity, because patients are constantly connected via smartphones and the internet and want to be just as connected to their medical practitioners.
It’s up to professionals to choose the best way to engage with their patients.