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Making sure your patients are engaged – one of two key elements driving patient experience – lays the foundation for stronger patient-provider relationships built on trust, empathy, and understanding. Positive relationships can help improve patient satisfaction and yield patient loyalty. And when a patient has a consistent, trusted source of healthcare, health outcomes can improve as well. 

The Patient Engagement Playbook

Artera™ recently created “The Patient Engagement Playbook,” which offers six best practices for patient engagement to enable you to foster lasting connections with your patients that will ultimately lead to greater results for both your patients and your organization. The playbook will walk you through six critical steps to increase patient engagement – the third of which covers prioritizing convenience and accessibility for patients. 

But before we dive into the ins and outs of convenient and accessible care, let’s define what engaged patients are:

  • Informed – They understand their health status and the recommended treatment.
  • Heard – They communicate with their providers and participate in shared decision-making.
  • Empowered – They believe they can change their health outcomes.
  • Active – They take action on their health based on personal learnings and overall understanding. 

Although engaging patients – and keeping them engaged – can be challenging, it is a vital process for attracting and retaining them. Effectively engaging patients in their care is essential to improving health outcomes and staff efficiency, increasing patient satisfaction, and reducing costs while driving revenue. 

The Patient Engagement Playbook” discusses how greater patient engagement can: 

Improve health outcomes: Strong patient engagement increases adherence to treatment regimen recommendations among patients, which in turn leads to fewer complications and re-hospitalizations. Several U.S. studies recently reported coordinated care trials that actively engaged patients with chronic disease resulted in significant mortality reductions compared to a control group who merely took appropriate medications. The studies suggest chronically ill patients who are engaged in their care live longer than unengaged peers who otherwise receive similar treatment, meaning health and well-being are fostered by engaged and activated patients. [1, 2, 3

Enhance staff efficiency: Patient engagement strategies can help reduce front-end staff workload by reducing time spent on phone calls which take up a significant portion of time and can lead to support staff burnout. With more valuable time back, staff can spend more time on direct patient care. 

Increase patient satisfaction: Personalized and unique patient engagement enables patients to feel heard and seen and empowers them to make decisions about their care. This can enhance overall satisfaction, and facilitate longer-standing relationships with providers while improving patient experience measures. 

Reduce cost and drive revenue: Patient engagement directly contributes to outcomes affecting hospital costs and reimbursement for health systems. Executing effective patient engagement strategies also means better patient retention and referrals.

Driving convenient and accessible care in 2023

Patient expectations today are higher than ever – and if patients don’t feel their needs are being met, they will not hesitate to switch providers. In fact, a 2022 Harris poll found nearly 70% of Americans are willing to switch to another healthcare provider if there are more appealing and convenient options for care.

In today’s digitally-connected society, it’s no longer an option to leverage scalable, modern technology – it’s a necessity. We know that patients are eager to utilize convenient digital tools when it comes to managing their care: 

  • 92% of patients value convenience above all other healthcare factors.  
  • Roughly four in five Americans want the ability to use technology when managing their healthcare experience. 
  • Patients between ages 18 and 34 are nearly twice as likely to select a facility that has digital access tools such as appointment check-in, online appointment booking, and online provider communication

It’s clear that patients want their healthcare experience to resemble their customer experience. They not only want convenient, self-service features – they expect them. Actionable features that directly affect their ability to receive care, like appointment reminders, automated care management, requesting referrals, requesting prescription refills, and texting with their providers, are now critical for increasing patient satisfaction. 

“Elevating patient care is about much more than just throwing technology at existing workflows and expecting it to solve the problems,” says Meg Aranow, SVP, Platform Evangelist at ArteraTM. “It’s essential to be thoughtful about how solutions are implemented in order to truly optimize the experience of both staff and patients, and ultimately drive better health outcomes.” 

However, it’s important to be thoughtful of the digital solutions you choose to invest in. Consider looking at a unified patient engagement platform, which can enable streamlined, consistent patient-provider communication – helping patients stay activated throughout their entire care journey. These platforms can offer a comprehensive set of services, including bidirectional texting, appointment reminders, self-scheduling or rescheduling online, recalls, referrals, wayfinding (directions), and more. 

As the Harris poll found, a convenient and technology-driven healthcare experience can tremendously improve patient satisfaction. In fact, seven in 10 healthcare consumers would consider switching to another provider that offered more appealing services – largely ones that are technology-based. 

Sixty-one percent of consumers reported they wanted their healthcare experience to be like the customer experience of online products like Amazon Prime, Uber, or Instacart. These survey results prove patients desire a better clinical care experience that includes better access and resembles other customer experiences they have in their everyday lives. 

Four steps to creating a technology-driven healthcare experience 

For the second year in a row, the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM) Top of Mind for Health Systems report showed that health IT investments will focus primarily on improving patient access to care. In fact, 28 percent of survey respondents said that patient access is the top area where technology has the greatest promise for improving.

“It’s no secret that health systems have been facing significant challenges since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and must address consumer demands for greater convenience and accessibility from their healthcare providers,” said Joon Lee, MD, executive vice president of UPMC and president of UPMC Physician Services, in a statement regarding the CCM report.

The report underscores the significance of prioritizing convenient and accessible care as consumers demand greater functionalities, self-scheduling tools, and overall more digital engagement. This is why organizations are now laser-focused on advancing their tech stack to improve the patient experience. 

To get you thinking about your own organization’s processes, we’ve outlined four key steps to help you create a technology-driven healthcare experience for your patients: 

  1. Take inventory of your patient-facing technology

To ensure your health system is up to date on all the technological advances in patient communication and care, review your tech stack and identify what is missing. Below is a list of the basic technological capabilities every health system should have to best service their patients and be competitive in the marketplace: 

Telehealth and Virtual visits

Telehealth’s popularity increased exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic and is now a staple of healthcare services. In fact, at the peak of the pandemic, it accounted for roughly 13% of all outpatient services, compared to just above zero percent in early 2020. Over 80% of physicians believe that patients have better access to care since using telehealth while 94% of patients who have had a telehealth encounter want to continue to have access to it in the future. 

Ultimately, telehealth can be a great replacement for the only other option for some: no appointment at all. It is a great alternative for people who live in communities that don’t have convenient access to healthcare providers and facilities, keeping patients engaged in their health and improving health outcomes. Virtual visits are a type of telehealth that offers remote care through a computer or smart device and allow patients to get care from a provider when they don’t need or can’t get an in-person visit.  

Patient portal and PHR

While findings indicate patients have a strong interest in their own medical records, 60% of consumers don’t have adequate patient data access, according to recent survey findings from Propeller Insights. Providing patients easy access to their health records could drive greater engagement, enabling active participation in their own care. 

A patient portal with access to electronic personal health records (PHR) is a safe, online tool that can help boost patient engagement since patients can see their health records at any time via a computer or smart device. Patient portals allow people to easily access valuable information such as vaccination records, prescription information, test results, and much more. Another option is to provide clinical note access where patients can review the notes during clinical encounters, giving them the opportunity to reflect and retain any critical information shared. 

Patient communication platform

Despite 98% of providers that say technology is important to providing a great patient experience and increasing revenue, 46% of offices haven’t updated their office technology in over two years, according to Weave’s 2023 Healthcare Business Insights Report. And when it comes to patient communication, times have certainly changed. 

That’s why offering a modern patient communication platform (PCP) where patients can easily communicate back and forth with their providers in their preferred channel — text, email, or phone — is vital in today’s consumer-centric health industry. PCPs offer a multitude of features like bidirectional texting, digital automated appointment reminders, multi-language support, and other capabilities that make it convenient for patients to communicate with their clinicians, leading to an overall better patient experience.

Providers should offer all modalities in terms of patient communication. According to Weave’s report, 94% of providers agree that a text message appointment reminder makes patients more likely to show up for their appointment. When comparing phone calls to text, 53% of providers say a text message is the best way to prevent no-shows while 43% of providers say a phone call is the best route. 

Digital patient intake technology

Offering a touchless or digital check-in process drives convenient and accessible care, and will allow patients to pre-register and complete any screenings or paperwork before their appointments. As COVID-19 continues to linger on, digital intakes are safer and more convenient for both the staff and patients. They also help to cut down on the amount of time needed to check in for in-person appointments.

Remote monitoring devices

Remote patient monitoring devices allow clinicians to check a patient’s health remotely and are helpful in overcoming barriers to access to care, especially if a patient is unable to physically show up for an appointment. These devices collect data that keeps a patient’s healthcare team informed and they connect patients to specialists who they otherwise would not have access. 

Mobile app

Nine out of 10 healthcare executives believe a well-designed, patient-facing mobile app is a critical component of a health system’s digital strategy, and that mobile engagement can help achieve broader business goals. A mobile app can lead to a better patient experience by providing features such as wayfinding, appointment reminders, and provider information.   

  1. Meet with your Governance Committee to discuss and decide on technology needs

After identifying your technology gaps, meet with your internal Governance Committee to report on your findings and discuss which technologies fit into your organization’s digital strategy. Consider how each technology not only fits your organization’s goals but also aligns with current patient expectations around convenient and accessible care. 

Once the internal group has agreed on the solutions or tools they want to invest in and why, identify who is responsible for facilitating the purchase. Refer to The Definitive Buyer’s Guide to a Patient Communication Platform for a comprehensive and flexible overview of how to choose a healthcare technology such as a unified patient communication platform that supports your company’s goals.

  1. Conduct patient satisfaction surveys about HIT

Although patients want more digital health tools that allow them to manage their care and make digital access a central priority when selecting a care facility, a 2022 patient engagement technology survey report vendors are not meeting patient expectations. 

There are plenty of opportunities to bridge these gaps, however; it’s just a matter of adopting the right tools and functionalities that patients truly desire. In order to get a better understanding of patient expectations and needs in regards to convenient and accessible care, health systems can conduct patient satisfaction surveys about healthcare information technology (HIT) to see where they fall short so they can remedy the gaps where they are not fulfilling patient needs.

  1. Use AI-enabled patient communication technologies

Healthcare is only just starting to take advantage of the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to promote more robust healthcare systems – ensuring the human connection is not lost but rather enhanced. AI is used in the healthcare industry in various ways from automated, bidirectional correspondence and appointment scheduling to testing, diagnosing, and treatments. For effective and consistent patient-provider communication, AI can help streamline patient touch-points, and create efficient digital communication in a safe way when using patient data. 

AI-enabled technology such as Artera ChatAssist AI can independently navigate everyday patient communication needs based on a patient’s response, thus driving convenient and accessible care. With technology like ChatAssist AI, organizations build multi-step conversational flows that are designed to help with common patient questions, like pre-appointment reminders or medication refills. If needed, ChatAssist AI will automatically escalate a conversation with a patient to staff personnel.

Ultimately, leveraging digital solutions that offer modern features enables providers to enhance convenience and accessibility for patients, helping to build and augment stronger relationships with them. Organizations that meet these expectations can reap greater benefits such as higher patient satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty, as well as a stronger bottom line and improved patient outcomes. 

Overall, optimized patient engagement strategies are essential for healthcare providers looking to properly address patient needs, which have shifted dramatically as a result of healthcare consumerization and the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, providers need to consider the six strategies in The Patient Engagement Playbook to facilitate greater patient engagement, connection, and understanding.