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personalized care

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 fourth of which covers personalized care experiences. 

But before we dive into the significance of personalized 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.

The future of healthcare: Delivering personalized care experiences 

According to CVS Health’s 2022 Health Insights survey, 85% of consumers believe personalized care is important. In fact, 83% of survey respondents said they want their primary care physician to know about deeply personal items such as their family medical history, genetics, and inherited lifestyle habits. 

What this really comes down to is embracing a more holistic, whole-person approach to healthcare that patients ultimately desire. So, how can you deliver more personalized care experiences? 

Provide flexible care

First and foremost, personalization should extend to how patients would like to receive care. For example, would they prefer a virtual, telehealth, or in-person visit? Are they open to non-traditional healthcare options, such as holistic approaches involving diet, exercise, alternative medicine, or counseling? 

The flexibility of care service offerings allows patients to manage their healthcare experiences in a unique way that aligns with their goals and values, encouraging them to remain activated throughout their care journeys. Remember to ask the patient about their goals, values, and fears around care — a practice that is critical to providing personalized and individualized care plans. 

Optimize communication 

Personalization should also apply to communication. More than ever, providers and patients agree that good communication and understanding are the keys to successful care plans and health outcomes. 

How we communicate has changed dramatically within the lifetime of nearly every patient, however – and it is no longer sufficient to merely send mass push communications. To deliver personalized care, you must design and implement a unique, conversational relationship with your patients. 

Think about what makes your patients unique and how best you can connect with them. What languages do they speak? What kinds of messages resonate best with certain patients? Make sure to keep these in mind, among a number of other factors:

  • Have a conversation: Enable conversational messaging that allows both patients and providers to reach out or respond. This empowers patients to ask questions, share concerns, or provide feedback and allows providers to gain a greater perspective and understanding of their patients. 
  • Honor patient preferences: enable communication in patients’ preferred channels – text, phone, or email – to deliver a more personalized care experience. 
  • Provide language support: offer communication in patients’ preferred/native language. Research suggests those with limited English proficiency (LEP) face barriers to health care access, experience lower quality care, and suffer worse health outcomes. By addressing language barriers, patients can better understand their care needs and ultimately make better-informed decisions for their health. 
  • Personalize messages: spamming patients with mass communications that are non-personalized and questionably relevant will make it harder for the patient to filter out what information from their provider is actually important. Keep it conversational and unique. 
  • Leverage AI-enabled capabilities: streamline unique workflows with the use of customized automation to ensure personalization; empower patients with information and self-service opportunities (scheduling, pre-appointment instructions, or referrals). 
  • Utilize data and analytics: embrace data to inform intelligent communication strategies. Patient communication platforms may provide insightful analytics, such as confirmation and no-show rates, which would help you determine the ideal timing for sending messages. 

According to McKinsey and Company’s Next in Personalization 2021 Report, companies that engage in customer personalization produce 40 percent more in revenue than their peers that do not. Therefore, personalized care is not only beneficial to the patient but it’s also profitable for health systems in terms of increasing the bottom line. 

In addition to providing flexible care and optimizing communication, here are additional ways to deliver personalized care experiences to your patients:

1. Define a customer-centric vision statement

Define a vision statement from key expectations identified in patient satisfaction surveys. A vision statement provides guiding values for every service staff member in your health system and acts as a reference point for your patient experience goals.

2. Equip employees with customer service skills

Like any customer, patients want to feel heard, instead of being “processed” from a script. Training patient-facing staff on how to handle customer emotions with empathy is crucial to creating personal experiences.

3. Provide omnichannel choices

In today’s digital world, patients expect to access customer service in the communications channel they find most convenient whether it’s phone, text, email, or social media. Patients expect your business to be there when they need you, so provide omnichannel communication choices to both retain and attract patients to your healthcare system.

4. Offer Self-Service Experiences

People are used to finding information by themselves in today’s digital world and expect the same speed and convenience when they are patients. Patient portals, appointment self-scheduling, automated check-ins, and other customer-centric resources provide customers with self-service tools they can easily and conveniently use throughout their entire patient journey.

5. Engage in Frequent touch points – but not too many

According to the aforementioned CVS survey, both consumers and providers feel customized text reminders or phone follow-ups of screenings and checkups are important to good health and a patient’s ability to successfully follow a prescribed care plan. Use digital tools like a patient communication platform to engage in frequent interventions and touch points to ensure open lines of communication between the patient and provider. 

Make sure not to over communicate with your patients, however, as this can lead to fatigue or patients opting out of future messages. Researchers in a JAMA Open Network study found that individuals who received 10 or more text messages from their provider in a year were significantly more likely to opt out of future messages: “The findings suggest that a high volume of automated health care messages may be associated with a greater likelihood of patients opting out of future messages and that health care systems should use these messages judiciously to minimize message fatigue,” the researchers wrote.

6. Use patient satisfaction surveys to assess what’s working

Promoting positive patient experience is important when offering a holistic healthcare package. One of the best ways to listen and learn from your customers is to ask them. Use patient satisfaction surveys to ask customers what they think is working and what needs improvement. The results can help optimize your customer service and ensure it’s as personalized as possible. Implement automated tools such as customized surveys through text or embedding a personalized link for more insightful feedback and a higher rate of response.

7. Provide platforms for employee feedback

As the eyes and ears of any contact center, service agents are crucial to delivering personalized care experiences. They’re also the ones speaking to your customers every day, which means they’ll be the first to notice trends that can help improve your customer service offerings. Providing platforms for them to contribute ideas and constructive feedback can therefore help stimulate small changes that make a massive difference.

Your customer service staff are the frontline when it comes to interacting with patients so it’s crucial they are trained on delivering personalized care experiences. It’s also important to get constructive feedback from your support staff on how patients are responding to your customized patient services and how to improve them. Set up a regular procedure by which your customer service staff can offer ideas and observations in an open and non-partisan environment.

8. Evaluate and evolve your services  

Over time, patient profiles will change so you need to consistently review their preferences and seek feedback to ensure you are still offering a personalized experience. Once you have this insight, your organization needs to evaluate the data and respond to the preference changes by evolving your services to keep up with consumer demand.

Overall, by prioritizing personalized care experiences, your organization has the potential to shift the clinical paradigm from “What’s the matter?” to something more meaningful: “What matters to you?”

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.

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