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Patient engagement platforms have never been more important, as the pandemic has hugely disrupted how healthcare is distributed and accessed.

As we steadily move into 2022, patient engagement technology remains top-of-mind for healthcare organizations. In fact, over half of health system CIOs deemed it the top priority in May 2021, overtaking artificial intelligence and machine learning. This shift in focus will only continue to evolve as providers look to optimize the patient experience, meet growing consumer demands, and ultimately drive better health outcomes. 

What is patient engagement?

Patient engagement is when patients are actively involved in their care and considered valued decision makers throughout their care journey. At its core, doctor-patient relationships are characterized by trust and compassion. 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 have the ability to change their health outcomes.

The key to creating informed, heard, and empowered patients is communication. And while the vast majority of providers (76%) believe they make it easy for patients to connect with them, just over half of consumers (54%) say they are truly happy with existing communication efforts. Patients are demanding more, and providers must embrace modern patient engagement solutions and other emerging healthcare technologies to meet their needs.

The difference between patient engagement and patient experience

Patient engagement is active and is how a patient participates in their care. Engagement has a clear interactive component. Patient experience, however, is passive; it is how a patient receives and perceives their care. Both experience and engagement matter, and both aim to improve outcomes.

In fact, higher patient engagement was associated with nine out of 13 positive health outcomes in a 2014 study published in the journal, Health Affairs. Outcomes included better clinical indicators, more healthy behaviors, and greater use of preventive care.

Patient engagement, which can be seen as one of two crucial elements driving patient experience, entails the integration of patients into the providers’ development of their procedures, policies, and practices. With patients more involved, healthcare organizations are able to create and offer services and features patients truly want.

What is a patient engagement platform?

There are a variety of ways to engage patients. What does it mean to engage patients via a platform? What is a patient engagement platform exactly?

A patient engagement platform is a tool that allows patients to interact with their care providers via their mobile device, tablet, or computer. It bridges the gap between providers, patients, and third-party patient engagement software companies and keeps patients involved in their care even when they’re not within the four walls of a hospital.

When properly and effectively implemented, patient engagement platforms help streamline access to medical records, provide appointment reminders, enable self-scheduling for patients, and deliver educational information.

In today’s world, patients are eager to utilize digital tools when it comes to managing their care. Communication capabilities is one of the leading factors of this. According to a 2021 BMC Health Services Research report, 76% of patients use text messaging specifically to assist in managing their health, including contacting their providers for appointments, information requests, and more.

It’s clear that patient engagement software and other related solutions are set to become permanent features of the healthcare landscape. According to a 2021 market report, the global market for patient engagement technology is set to balloon to $41.20 billion by 2027, up from $11.19 billion in 2019.

Are portals considered patient engagement platforms?

Although patient portals are sometimes seen as patient engagement platforms, patient adoption of portals is surprisingly low – and for those patients who do log in, portal access doesn’t necessarily correlate with better outcomes.

Ultimately, a tool that isn’t used isn’t effective. Patients are looking for engagement platforms that meet them where they are — on their phones — and don’t require a separate login.

In a 2018 report on patient engagement, KLAS Research observed, “Patients seem to respond much more favorably to patient outreach tools that push communication and education directly to their ever-present smartphones.”

What to look for in a patient engagement platform:

According to Pega’s 2021 Healthcare Engagement Survey, 77% of providers are convinced their patients would leave them due to poor communications – up 103% over last year. To bolster stronger communication and connectivity, it is time to rethink healthcare engagement.

One way to do so is by implementing newer engagement technologies that serve the patient’s voice, via which providers are able to determine how to best deploy their expertise and services to their patients. 

The success of patient engagement strategies hinges on numerous factors. Chief among them is partnering with the best patient engagement software vendor, based on your health system’s needs, prevailing laws, and industry standards. When you are in the market for a patient engagement software, ensure that the products you’re reviewing carry the following capabilities:

  • Interactive, real-time patient communication
    Meaningful connection is inherent to the definition of engagement. Any patient engagement platform you choose should enable conversational texting, where patients are able to respond to and initiate contact with your health system.
  • Keyword Actions and chatbot functionality
    Not every interaction with patients requires human intervention. This is why the use of keywords and chatbots is an upcoming trend. A patient engagement software solution should allow for automated responses to common questions, such as “Where are you located?” It should also allow keywords to trigger automations, such as scheduling a ride with Uber Health for patients who need a lift.
  • Sentiment analysis
    At its core, patient engagement involves understanding patients on a deeper, emotional level. One of the best ways to do so is leveraging sentiment analysis technology. By analyzing a patient’s sentiment, providers are able to identify a patient’s emotions or thoughts and respond promptly — before patients take to social media to complain or receive a CAHPS survey.
  • Multilingual support
    Some of your patients speak a language other than English, therefore it’s vital to have a multilingual patient engagement platform.
  • EMR integration
    A patient engagement software solution should integrate with your EMR. For example, the platform should be able to receive information from the EMR, such as a referral or recall, and write back to the EMR.
  • Portal enrollment
    There is still a place for the patient portal. So, whatever patient engagement platform you choose should also be able to drive patients to the portal.
  • Integration with other vendors
    Choose best in class patient engagement software companies that integrate seamlessly with your other vendors. For example, a patient engagement platform could offer billing features or, even better, integrate with a billing vendor.
  • Employee adoption
    Acceptability to your staff is essential for any patient engagement platform. In other words, if your employees don’t like the new technology, it’s not going to fulfill its potential.

A 2020 survey on patient engagement suggests healthcare providers and vendors’ goals and desires aren’t always aligned with those of their patients. Leveraging a patient engagement solution that places great value on patients enables providers to build and augment stronger relationships with them.

To be successful and rewarding for patients, providers, and vendors alike, patient engagement strategies must place patients’ needs and welfare at the forefront.

Why WELL offers the best patient engagement software

WELL offers interactive, real-time patient communication. It enables conversation between patients and your staff and offers automations to improve efficiency and get your patients the answers they need. WELL offers multilingual support in 19 different languages, including Spanish, French, German, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean.

WELL integrates with the leading EMRs and third-party vendors, enabling billing, transportation, sentiment analysis, and more. One leading health system in southern California used WELL to increase portal enrollment by 19 percent across all sites.

Finally, WELL is easy to implement and staff love it. In fact, customers have rated WELL Best in KLAS in Patient Outreach for the second consecutive year. On G2 and Capterra, a leading end user even said: “I love WELL so much. It makes getting in contact with patients so quick, easy, and stress FREE. I know our patients are also loving it as well. (WELL) cuts our time spent on phones in half.” ♥

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