Increasing patient engagement to improve health outcomes
Patient engagement is slowly and steadily becoming an integral part of our healthcare system. As discussed in the previous blog on introduction to patient engagement, making patients accountable in managing their own health is highly valuable in reducing healthcare cost while improving the quality of care a patient receives.
Patients and citizens in general, are demanding more transparency and responsiveness in the processes of a hospital or a clinic or even a medical insurance provider. Patient engagement promotes accountability in a patient of their own health outcomes while increasing understanding of treatment path between the patients and healthcare providers. Let us understand how these two important stakeholders in the healthcare industry can play a part in increasing patient engagement.
Role of patients:
- Most patients perceive their role as subordinate to doctors in their treatment and care. This myth should be busted through proper education and imparting awareness of the power of self-involvement.
- Patients who are aware and engaged are more likely to report positive and negative experiences during a treatment. This not only improves health outcomes, but also reduces adverse effects usually caused by carelessness on part of patients or providers alike.
Role of healthcare providers:
- Providers should be encouraged and educated on viewing health and medicine as a partnership between the patient and the provider, by imparting necessary training courses.
- Providers should develop strong patient awareness skills, shared decision-making strategies, and tools to foster meaningful participation.
- Providers have identified and created alternative forms of communicating with patients, such as phone, e-mail, SMS and video calls. Providers should make themselves accessible outside their hospitals through the above means.
Potential areas of improving patient engagement:
- Patient experience feedback: Gathering feedback about patient experience and outcome of treatment can be the starting point for engaging patients. Feedback provides insight into patient needs, preferences and values, which can help to improve the quality and safety of care. Such feedback collection can happen through review ratings, surveys, informal online feedback, interviews or focus group discussions.
- Sharing health data with patients: A patient cannot engage in self-management activities when he or she lacks the necessary knowledge and tools to effectively track their own health data. A few developed countries maintain systems of record with complete patient history making it accessible to a patient in a safe and secure manner. In many developing countries, all health data is not yet digitized and patients are responsible to manage their own lab test reports, imaging records for example. Overall, it helps to have visibility into complete medical history where a patient is sharing accountability of treatment.
- Encouraging shared decision making: To involve patients in choosing the best path among available options, it is important to educate patients about all possible treatment options, discuss with patient and family about their health goals and financial constraints. Keeping in mind, the patient’s preferences, the doctor comes to a decision and performs the necessary treatment. Please note that this is not possible in all conditions and needs provider discretion.
- Supporting patients remotely, encouraging at-home care: As mentioned earlier, many providers have identified multiple avenues of communication between patients and doctors through use of technology. The right combination of technology can help reduce operational costs, increase speed of treatment and improve quality of care. We have discussed key trends in healthcare involving technology in our previous blogs (Part 1 & Part 2). These tech trends not only help providers support their patients remotely, but also allows them to encourage self at-home care options of remote and continuous patient monitoring.
- Preventive treatment: Lifestyle changes including balanced nutritional food intake, regular exercises, consuming multivitamins or supplements as needed form an excellent source of maintaining good health. This knowledge of changing lifestyle can be imparted by various means of communication. However, the most important aspect of attaining success is that a person is aware, activated and remains engaged in improving their health even before the onset of any symptoms.
With the right mix of education and technology, patients can become empowered in taking decisions for their health and care options leading to reducing overall healthcare costs, increasing accessibility to all patients and improving quality.
I hope you found this blog on patient engagement insightful. Please comment below your suggestions on topics you would like to learn more about the healthtech industry.