Effective patient engagement has long been a cornerstone of high-quality care, p studies stretching back years pointing to connection between engaged, health literate patients and improved health outcomes. It’s simple math: Patients who are more engaged with their health go to checkups, don’t miss appointments, have the right to ask questions about their care, and stay loyal to their doctors and health systems. Improved clinical outcomes naturally follow.
Amidst the shift to value-based care and the swing into overdrive of consumerism in healthcaremeanwhile, patient engagement has become a top-down, C-suite imperative. Amid growing competition and a workforce on the brink of burnout, patient engagement and its transformative power to improve outcomes and experiences are key stakes.
Until recently, however, patient engagement was often a manual, tedious and archaic task that consumed valuable nursing and support staff time that could otherwise be spent on actual patient care. Given its history, some myths still exist surrounding the practice, which we’re here to dispel:
Myth #1: Patient engagement is more than scheduling appointments and reminders
Appointment scheduling and reminders are integral elements of patient engagement. They reduce no-shows, save hospitals money, and keep patients on track with checkups and preventative care. But patient engagement goes far beyond scheduling and reminders. Effective patient engagement that leads to better outcomes requires continuity of engagement that facilitates maintaining active participation in one’s own health. It covers the entire continuum of care: from pre-care outreach to point-of-care rounding and surveys, to post-discharge outreach and family engagement, ensuring the patient and everyone around them is on top of the care plan.
Myth #2: Patient engagement is not an effective data game
Although the EHR is the source of data and central source of truth that most hospitals primarily rely on, traditional EHRs can miss a lot when it comes to context. Effective, digitally empowered engagement collects data that typically slips through the gaps of traditional data collection models, using capabilities like conversational AI to learn patient preferences and stories to inform personalization in future encounters. On a macro scale, hospital leaders can also use engagement data to gain faster insights than with traditional metrics like HCAHPS scores, allowing for in-the-moment insights and action.
Myth #3: Patient engagement is not as important in rural communities
Rural hospitals continue to be limited in terms of budget and staff and serve patient groups that may be particularly at risk. Just as in urban communities at risk, there are complexities involved in engaging rural populations. Patients in rural areas are more likely to be older, live in poverty, have more chronic illnesses, and have poor health behaviors. At the same time, their access to technology is lower than that of the urban and suburban population. Given the risk factors, patient engagement remains critically important as a way to ensure access and alleviate barriers to engagement, but it must be dynamic and fluid, using several different channels to effectively reach patients.
Myth #4: Patient engagement will not help with patient retention
In an era where some patients are moving away from traditional care models in favor of convenient and easily accessible digital models, hospitals that use engagement are shown to improve patient retention. At the same time, they see higher rates of appointment scheduling, reduced no-shows, and higher levels of satisfaction, all of which factor into a patient’s decision to stay with a particular health system.
Myth #5: Patient education exists separately from patient engagement
Engaged patients are healthier patients—and so are educated ones. As time and resources among frontline staff decrease, providers sometimes simply cannot spend as much time as they would like with patients explaining conditions and care. This is why documentation and digital communication are so important. Through effective engagement, providers can fill the education gap, providing resources through post-discharge outreach or personalized voice messages describing care plans, providing resources that patients can refer to, review, and use to build self-efficacy.
Healthcare leaders are facing unprecedented post-pandemic challenges: staff burnout, unprecedented competition from digital alternatives and a wave of pandemic-induced delayed care. Hospitals must use every tool at their disposal, but one of the most important is the oldest one at their disposal: familiarity and empathy. Through effective and focused engagement, frontline caregivers are able to build meaningful relationships with patients, show them they are seen and heard, and give them the information and education they need to be better stewards of your own health.
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