October 20, 2014|Categories: Patient Engagement
More than ever, market forces are influencing provider behaviors in how they practice medicine. Helping providers preserve the sanctity of their interactions with patients at the moment of care now takes on a new dimension — moving that connection to patients beyond the exam room, and beyond the four walls of any practice. This concept of patient engagement is an integral part of health care delivery today, whether you’re a solo practitioner, a multi-state health system, or anything in between. Achieving true patient engagement is more than simply adopting a patient portal — it takes the right combination of technology, services, and strategy to make it effective — and lasting — for your practice and your patients.
Why is patient engagement so vital? For starters, government-inspired programs such as Meaningful Use, Patient Centered Medical Homes, and Accountable Care Organizations are major drivers in patient engagement. These programs make having a patient portal a necessity. Patient portals offer a convenient way for patients to connect to their own care, with the same level of accessibility and privacy they have to their online bank account.
Capabilities like secure, two-way messaging with practices and access to personal health care information and health education resources are becoming more common, and patients can more effectively and proactively engage with their care and their practice. Expectations change and the continuum of care takes on a new dimension, forcing care providers to change how they think about and deliver those interactions.
In addition to government programs, other market forces have led to a greater focus on patient engagement:
- renegotiated risk-based contracts with commercial payers
- increased competition
- patients taking on more payment burden — and expecting greater control over their care
These changes in market conditions and patient/provider behaviors make it necessary for health care providers to create and deploy a patient engagement strategy. And that strategy must go beyond using a patient portal. Where to start? When creating that strategy, we recommend keeping your efforts focused on three areas:
- improving the patient experience
- advancing the health of your patient population
- reducing costs
Through a smart combination of technology and services, patient engagement can be accomplished and effectively support an active collaboration between patients and providers. This includes a patient portal (of course), automated phone, email and text messages, and live operator services to extend practice hours and increase accessibility to your practice.
You should also look for an integrated, packaged solution that can then take all of your patient information and go a step further — to help you better manage the health of your patient population. By leveraging evidenced-based clinical guidelines to identify gaps in needed preventive care, using these technology and services enables you to quickly and easily conduct outreach to patients, driving not only education and awareness of needed services, but allowing the ability to schedule appointments, improve outcomes and increase revenue opportunities.
Just as important as selecting the right technology and services to deploy your strategy is getting buy-in from everyone in your practice — leadership, providers, staff, patients and even patients’ families. Make sure you set the vision, create a definition for patient engagement, address barriers and concerns, and point out the opportunities.
Be sure to include specific policies and processes that support patient engagement in your strategy, and build them into the provider and staff workflow. Build a timeline for achievement — including short-term as well as long term goals helps your practice continually reinforce patient engagement practices you want to forge for your organization. Finally, consider incorporating a recognition program to reward staff for achieving those goals — this can really help reinforce behavior that’s inherently part of this important cultural shift.
Comprehensive, successful patient engagement will take time to achieve — but it’s time worth investing.
For more on this topic, read “5 Elements of a Successful Patient Engagement Strategy.”