Patient Engagement — Past, Present & Future

Nikita Pitliya
3 min readNov 13, 2020

In the previous blog — Impact of COVID-19 on India’s healthcare industry (Part 1 & Part 2), we saw how technology and digital disruption are helping improve quality and accessibility of healthcare for all. In this blog, we will understand the importance of involving patients in their own health journey. This involvement where a patient actively participates in managing their own health is called Patient Engagement.

What is “Patient Engagement”?

Historically, a typical patient journey in simplest terms included — consulting a doctor when the patient observes some unusual symptoms and then undergoing specific treatment. A person consulted a doctor only at the onset of a disease or during an illness and did not care much about regular consultations or monitoring their own health conditions. This form of reactive care has many disadvantages and has proven to be fatal in many diseases.

The term “Patient Activation” refers to a patient’s willingness to manage his or her own health. The term “Patient Engagement” is a much broader concept that combines patient activation with the necessary knowledge and tools to promote positive health behavior. Patient engagement is used to describe everything from a patient undergoing regular body check-ups, to remotely monitoring health conditions with at-home devices, to using fitness trackers for weight management and so on.

Patient engagement combines willingness to participate and necessary knowledge & tools to improve one’s own health. It ensures better health outcome and reduced cost.

Several research studies and surveys in India and around the world have demonstrated that active participation of patients is directly proportional to better health outcomes and reduced costs.

Key trends and changing perspectives of Indian users:

  • The evolution of patients to ‘smart consumers’ due to rapid digitization, accessibility to smartphones and affordable internet plans have increased awareness regarding health and improved access to vital information.
  • Patients are well aware of the available options of treatment and search on the web for necessary information before consulting a doctor. People like to compare hospitals, read reviews before visiting a clinic, schedule online appointments and virtual consultations, even prefer at-home diagnostic testing kits if available.
  • The surge in chronic diseases such as heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, cancer which are among the leading causes of death in India, has forced people to take necessary precautions while there is a chance to prevent it. Diabetes along with heart disease is the most common chronic disease in India. India had 70 million registered cases of diabetes in 2017, projected to rise to 120 million by 2037*.
  • There are a plethora of mobile apps: fitness apps to count footsteps, track calories burnt and suggest workout schedules; nutrition apps to monitor daily nutrients intake and to suggest meal plans; wellness apps for meditation and mental health.
  • The nutraceutical market in India is booming — According to a 2018 Assocham Knowledge report, the Indian nutraceuticals market is expected to grow from $4 billion in 2017 to $18 billion in 2025**.

Yet, there are challenges:

Despite the increasing awareness and access to multiple avenues of engaging patients, we all understand that the trends mentioned above cover only a small population in India — urban, above-average income with access to smartphones and internet. A large population of India does not have access to these resources and is still fighting to get basic medical aid. The biggest challenge in India’s healthcare industry is to remove this disparity and ensure healthcare facilities are accessible to all citizens.

How do we go from reactive care to patient activation to patient engagement?

Currently, many healthcare providers and healthtech start-ups are finding ways to increase patient engagement to promote users to take care of their physical and mental health. But, the real question is, throughout the country and among all demographics:

  • “How can we go from reactive to preventive care methodologies?”
  • “How can we activate patients to participate in their own health journey?”
  • “For active patients, how can we increase patient engagement to ensure better quality of care?”

In the next blog, we will continue the discussion on above questions. Hope you found this topic insightful. Please comment below on topics you would like to learn more about.

Sources: *Top 5 chronic diseases in India, **Nutraceutical market in India



Nikita Pitliya

Tech enthusiast with passion to improve healthcare for all