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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. 

What is patient engagement?  

Patient engagement, one of two crucial elements driving patient experience, is when patients are actively involved and considered valued decision-makers throughout their entire care journey. 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? Effective patient communication. 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 actually happy with existing communication, according to a 2021 Pegasystems survey

Thus, a large gap exists between what patients want and what health systems currently provide. And so, these questions remain: how can providers fill this gap? How can they move forward while meeting growing patient expectations and needs?

If patients are more involved throughout their care journey, providers may be able to create and offer the services and features that patients truly want. Here is where patient engagement strategies come into play. 

Evidence-based patient engagement strategies 

Healthcare organizations exist to address the physical, mental, and social needs of patients and their families. But only with the help of effective patient engagement strategies are these needs met satisfactorily. When patients’ needs are met, the more likely they are to stay engaged throughout in their care, thus, improving their overall health. 

Research shows tangible benefits to implementing an efficacious patient experience and engagement strategy. Good patient engagement increases adherence to treatment regimen recommendations among patients, which in turn leads to fewer complications and re-hospitalizations. Strong patient engagement also enhances overall satisfaction, facilitating longer-standing relationships with providers while improving experience measures that directly impact reimbursement rates.

For health systems, patient engagement directly contributes to outcomes that affect hospital costs and reimbursement. Executing effective patient engagement strategies also means better patient retention and referrals.

What are the top patient engagement strategies? 

As health care becomes more patient-centric, digitally connected, and outcomes-driven, the expectations for accessible, efficient care will only continue to evolve. Patients are demanding more, and providers must be willing to respond with modern patient engagement strategies to both attract and retain patients.

The pandemic also emphasized the importance of accommodating patient needs to improve care quality and outcomes. Yet, it seems that patients continue to be left out of conversations regarding their interactions with providers. According to a new Actium survey, 61 percent of patients said they want to hear more from their doctors in 2022.

That’s why we have outlined the top patient engagement strategies for your organization to consider: 

1. Leverage newer engagement technologies

Studies have shown that a convenient and technology-driven healthcare experience can tremendously improve patient satisfaction. In fact, roughly 4 in 5 Americans want the ability to use technology when managing their healthcare experience, according to the Patient Perspectives on Patient Engagement Technology 2022 KLAS survey. 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.

Digital solutions offer tremendous opportunities to enhance patient engagement. However, it’s essential to be thoughtful about how solutions are implemented, says Meg Aranow, SVP, Platform Evangelist, WELL Health. Each technology must be intuitive, scalable, and agile. Utilizing technology that offers modern features like appointment automations or self-serve options can free up staff to focus on higher-touch patient interactions and allows patients to take back control of their care.

2. Deliver personalized care experiences

72 percent of patients say they want more personalized care that is tailored to their unique needs. This is another reason why it’s crucial to segment your patient populations. It will help you understand and address the care needs of various patient groups based on demographics or social determinants of health, for example. 

Greater use of digital technologies and connectivity can help to deliver personalized care. What languages do your patients speak? What kinds of messages will resonate with certain patients? The best way to honor individual preferences is to offer customized options. One example of this would be enabling bidirectional communication in patients’ preferred channels – text, phone, or email – in their preferred language. 

Personalization goes beyond patient communications, however. This should also extend to how they would like to receive clinical care. For example, would they prefer a virtual or in-person visit? Flexibility allows patients to manage their care experiences in a unique way that encourages them to remain activated throughout their care journeys. 

3. Enhance patient education

Another patient engagement strategy lies in education. Provide patients with resources that will help them understand their condition, care plan, treatment, or prescription. Make sure the patient’s individual needs are addressed in any materials you give to them. Keep in mind patients have different learning styles, so ask each patient how they like to consume information. 

By providing comprehensive and detailed materials in laymen’s terms, patients can better understand their care experience. Ask the patients and their families to summarize what they learned to ensure they completely understand. Research suggests patients who clearly comprehend their after-hospital care instructions have over 30 percent less chance of readmission compared to others.

This empowers patients to take their care into their own hands and allows them to make thoughtful decisions based on their own knowledge.

4. Practice shared decision-making 

Shared decision-making, or the practice of engaging patients in selecting a certain care path, puts patients in the middle of their own care. While providers can always suggest a certain treatment or care plan, it’s crucial to allow patients to come to their own decisions. 

According to Aranow, it’s very important to “partner with patients.” Opportunities where patients are “invited in” to share responsibilities with providers, such as providing detailed symptom descriptions, can really empower the patient. If implemented correctly, it can also reduce front-end staff workload.

5. Provide continuous care and support 

A patient’s healthcare journey never ends. Providers should work to establish and foster a relationship of trust with their patients – one that begins even before a patient enters a care setting. 

Since patients spend much more time outside of care settings, providers must keep communication channels open to ensure patients stay activated in their care. Digital patient outreach tools that enable bidirectional communication provide opportunities for patients to ask questions or simply check-in. They also give providers the opportunity to send personalized messages to a patient who may be less activated in self-management – another effective communication technique with patients. 

6. Listen, learn, iterate

More patients than ever before are utilizing patient engagement technology and they are eager to manage their own care. However, “some functionalities that patients greatly desire are currently limited or unavailable due to a lack of vendor development or a lack of readiness or willingness from provider organizations,” according to KLAS researchers

If patients don’t feel their needs are being met, they will likely switch providers. Therefore, it’s even more crucial for providers to continuously listen and learn from patients in order to expand their capabilities to put patients’ needs at the forefront. Think of how best you can receive feedback from patients. Examples may include patient surveys or questionnaires. 

7. Practice empathy 

Organizations can do a lot to cultivate an environment of compassion and positive feelings towards their patients. Studies even show that patients who feel empathy are more likely to take their medication and adhere to care guidelines. These positive changes in patient behavior can slow disease progression and enable them to bounce back faster from medical procedures.

In addition, studies demonstrate that care delivered with empathy results in fewer diagnostic tests, referrals, and medical errors, and increased patient satisfaction

Overall, patients want to be heard. They want autonomy, control, and a say in how they receive care. They want actionable features that directly affect their ability to receive care, like appointment automations, automated care management, requesting referrals, requesting prescription refills, and communicating with providers.

As patients become more empowered in their care, they are more likely to adopt new healthy behaviors and engage in self-management. This translates to improved care outcomes and reduced healthcare spending. What this means is that providers must be willing to look beyond the traditional patient engagement strategies to empower patients to be smarter, healthier, and better informed. 

A great first step? Leveraging the power of digital technology to lift the barriers to patient engagement in a way that enhances communication, education, and patient choice. 

The next step forward

Healthcare consumerization has given rise to a new generation of patients who now act like consumers, asserting their needs and choosing the providers that can meet them. The key to a successful patient-provider relationship? Building out a strong infrastructure to maintain the partnership. This largely translates to strong bidirectional communication, shared decision-making, and insights built on trust. 

By adopting the right healthcare tools, providers can enable concrete patient engagement strategies that can form the basis of a successful partnership. Patient engagement technology can not only enhance patient communication but also improve operational efficiencies and patient experience, among many other benefits

How WELL supports greater patient engagement

A digitally-powered solution such as WELL offers interactive, real-time patient communication that unifies the full life-cycle of patient interactions. It enables bidirectional conversation between patients and staff in preferred channels, such as texting, calling, or emailing, and offers automation to improve efficiency and get your patients the answers they need when they need them most. 

With WELL, you can deliver personalized care experiences by sparking meaningful conversations, customizing automated messages, enabling self-serve options, and more. WELL offers multilingual support in different languages, including Spanish, French, German, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. 

We believe that technology can revolutionize patient communications for the better. That’s why we’re constantly working with our customers to develop features that will improve patient satisfaction and key metrics. By implementing modern patient engagement strategies with WELL, you can give your patients what they truly desire, leading to higher patient satisfaction and retention. Schedule a demo to learn more.