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Christina Rosario

By: Christina Rosario on June 13th, 2017

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What Is Patient Engagement in Healthcare?

Value-Based Care

In any business, it will typically take a lot more time, effort and other resources to attract new customers than it does to retain them. The same typically holds true in healthcare organizations. Better patient engagement fosters trust between patients and the professionals treating them and is key for maintaining continuity of care. There are also financial considerations to keep in mind, of course, that will motivate practices to do their best to engage with each patient to keep them happy and satisfied with the services they receive.

This is why so many medical professionals are concerned with patient engagement and ensuring that they are doing what’s needed to not only maintain engagement, but to improve it.

Even if you are relatively new to working in the healthcare industry, you likely have had some exposure to the idea of patient engagement and that it is an important factor in the long-term success of your organization.

Ensure your patients are fully engaged with your practice while you focus on caring for them. Patient Portal Software conveniently lets you do just that.

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Understanding Patient Engagement

In a nutshell, patient engagement in healthcare refers to patients being as informed as possible about their options for treatment, medications, recuperation, and all other aspects of the healthcare system supporting them. Patient engagement involves “providers and patients working together to improve health,” noted a report from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

It stated that greater engagement in healthcare leads to improved health outcomes. Patients that are empowered with knowledge and that take part in the decision making process around their care typically have better outcomes and are healthier as a result, according to the HIMSS.

While we cannot force patients to be fully engaged, we can still do our part to practice patient engagement. Read on for more information about what patient engagement is, its benefits, and why your organization should be practicing patient engagement going forward.

Why Does Patient Engagement in Healthcare Matter?

It’s an undisputable fact of modern life that many adults are distracted as they attempt to go about their day, rushing between duties at work, school, and at home. They don’t always pay close attention when they are at the doctor’s office, whether because thoughts of upcoming tasks are consuming them or because they are nervous about the reason that brought them to see the doctor that day.

The more we as healthcare professionals can do to increase patient engagement, the better our patients will be prepared to ask the right questions, pay attention to the details of their home care requirements, and make appointments to follow up on their condition as needed.

These days, more patients have to contend with the possibility of changing their insurance plans more frequently than they may have in the past. For example, they are moving from one job to another or have married someone and are joining that insurance coverage. The advent of the Affordable Care Act and the promise of Obamacare have made medical insurance available to increasingly larger groups of people, all of whom have new choices to consider.

For these reasons, you would be right to make patient engagement a huge priority in your practice. Think of patients who are making a choice about whether to stick with a particular physician (and perhaps nurse practitioner) or to move to a different physician group. The more engaged they are with their current doctor and support staff, the more likely they will be to stick around.

If you’re still on the fence about whether patient engagement matters, consider the results from a recent study cited by Concentra from Health Dialog1 of 170,000 patients divided into two groups. One group was given the typical level of support, while the other group benefited from advanced help to guide them in making decisions about their healthcare. The patients received more support had 20.9% fewer cardiac surgeries, 12.5% fewer admissions to the hospital, and 5.4% lower costs over all for their medical care.

Benefits of Practicing Patient Engagement In Your Practice

There is a range of benefits when you practice patient engagement, both for your team and for the patients you all serve.

  • For your practice
    • Your team will be more on top of each patient’s particular situation, enabling you to provide more detailed and comprehensive care.

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Organizational competitiveness
    • A practice that is fully engaged with patients works more efficiently, from setting up follow-up visits as a matter of course to using the patient portal for faster and easier communication.

  • Improved office efficiency
    • Allowing patients to enter their own data in the patient portal means your staff works more efficiently, not having to type in the information from handwritten forms. Answering patient questions through the portal is another timesaving convenience.

  • Increased revenue
    • By boosting patient engagement, you are encouraging them to stay with your organization for the long haul, as well as to come in for regular checkups and follow-up visits. This naturally will boost your bottom line.

  • For your patients
    • Patients that have access to a patient portal and that receive more time, consideration and useful information from your team will naturally be happier with the services they receive.

Strategies to Roll Out Patient Engagement

As you prepare to roll out patient engagement in your organization, it’s useful to consider what elements make up a successful patient engagement strategy.

Making use of your electronic health record software brings immediate benefits, since computerization of records makes them infinitely easier to manage than old-fashioned, paper-based systems. The EHR allows you to analyze the data for all your patients, so doctors can identify various populations, such as those that require preventative appointments or follow-up care, noted a report from Health Catalyst.

Therefore, you can use these records to keep track of patients who may need extra time and attention to go over their options. This could lead to you setting a 30-minute appointment with plenty of time for sitting at a table with the doctor about what options currently exist, instead of a 15-minute appointment.

When you demonstrate to your patients the level of care involved in reminding them about their need to set follow-up appointments based on information in their computerized records, they will be more likely to stay with you instead of going to another doctor.

Remember that people from all walks of life are increasingly coming to rely on using their mobile devices to access the Internet and stay connected with one another. Your patient portal via the EHR should be mobile-friendly, accordingly, noted a report from EHR Intelligence.

Software Solution for Implementing a Patient Engagement Strategy

Developing a patient engagement strategy is of paramount importance. You can achieve your patient engagement goals quite easily when you use the latest software on the market. In order to boost patient engagement, you will want to activate the patient portal feature of your electronic health record software.

A dedicated EHR helps your team keep track of all patient data, making it accessible from any computer on the network. When the EHR is linked to a patient portal, you empower your patients as well as your team to work together more efficiently.

A patient portal increases the frequency and quality of communication between patients and doctors. Consider a patient who has to wait on hold on the phone for a seemingly interminable period, just to ask a question or to clarify something about treatment at home.

These patients are used to relying on more efficient communication tools in their personal and professional lives, from email to text messaging. With the portal, they can submit their question and your staff can respond to it as easily as an email or text. What’s more, the portal is efficient and easy for prescribing medications and for letting patients request a refill online.

Patients have the added convenience of going online to the portal from the comfort of their home to schedule appointments. They can even call up the results of their latest lab tests whenever they want to see them, instead of waiting for a member of your staff to send it by surface mail or to call the results in by phone.

Key Takeaways:

  • Patient engagement is crucial for empowering each patient in making decisions about health care options.
  • Your staff can work more effectively with patients when you have a policy in place to boost patient engagement.
  • Better patient engagement leads to improved recovery, reduced hospitalizations, and lower cost of care.
  • You’ll want to use electronic health record or EHR software in your practice as part of your patient engagement efforts.
  • Activate the patient portal in your EHR to give patients the power to communicate more effectively with your staff.

Because you’ve finished this blog post, it’s clear that you are devoted to improving patient engagement within your organization and want to do whatever you can to help empower your team and patients. For more information on the benefits of using dedicated software tools for improving the care you deliver, click here to watch a demo of our patient portal software.


About Christina Rosario

Christina Rosario is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Advanced Data Systems Corporation, a leading provider of healthcare IT solutions for medical practices and billing companies. When she's not helping ADS clients boost productivity and profitability, she can be found browsing travel websites, shopping in NYC, and spending time with her family.