7 Patient Engagement StrategiesStarr Campbell
The partnership between a healthcare provider and a patient is built on trust, consistent experiences, and good communication. The better developed this relationship is, the more likely patients are to take an active role in their health. Times have changed since the old ways of complete trust in professional opinion. With access to the Internet and exposure to legitimate sources at any time, most patients want to be a part of the decisions being made and feel included in the process. This is good news for practitioners who promote patient engagement, because patients who take a vested interest in their health share information openly.
Patient engagement is defined by the National Institute of Health as “the desire and capability to actively choose to participate in care in a way uniquely appropriate to the individual, in cooperation with a healthcare provider or institution, for the purposes of maximizing outcomes or improving experiences of care.” In layman's terms, patient engagement combines self-advocacy with collaborative processes between patients and providers in the healthcare system. While some patients may come to you engaged, others have to be motivated into taking an active role.
When trying to increase patient engagement, some practices make the mistake of trying several tools and methods to meet their needs. Instead, it’s more efficient to focus your staff’s attention on learning one new software or technique at a time and being consistent. Concentrating on one goal, like setting up an easy to use online scheduling website, can lead to other opportunities for patient engagement. For example, once your site is up, you can add telehealth appointments to your service list.
Why is patient engagement important in healthcare?
Healthcare in the modern world is more complex and nuanced than ever. Not only do patients have the option of finding another healthcare provider in their area with a few clicks, they also can find millions of virtual options. Even more concerning, some patients who have lost trust in the healthcare system or have low health literacy may seek treatment from uncredentialed ‘experts.’ Keeping patients engaged can help boost patient retention and maintain loyalty.
Patients who are disinterested in their health tend to have difficulty adhering to treatment plans and medications, resulting in billions of senseless medical costs per year. On a smaller scale, disengaged patients are typically routine no-shows that cost providers valuable time and money. After neglecting their health, these patients may try to get back on top of things with several appointments that clog your schedule and aren’t conducive to their treatment. Additionally, studies show disengaged patients are three times as likely to have unmet medical needs, and twice as likely to delay medical care.
The benefits of patient engagement include:
- Informed decision making
- Better outcomes
- Reduced costs
- Patient retention
- Deeper understanding of patients
- Reputation for providing a great experience
The best way to improve patient engagement depends on the healthcare practice, the tools at their disposal, and how their staff is managed. We’re looking at patient engagement strategies that any organization can use to amplify its efforts.
Implement patient portals
Giving patients more control over their accounts can help providers share information and communicate easily. Patient portals eliminate the need for your front desk to get involved with tedious requests like having to find patients’ statement balances, emailing them, or confirming an appointment time for a patient who forgot to mark their calendar.
By having access to the portal, patients can complete small administrative tasks themselves, and most prefer to. 61% of patients believe using a patient portal enhances the patient-provider relationship. To create patient portals, use a custom appointment scheduling software like TimeTap. Your patients can view their appointments, any outstanding payments, and their records in the portal, which works as a lightweight CRM on the administrative side.
Manage your staff’s time effectively
From the front desk to your team of practitioners, patients depend on staff for a friendly face and professional guidance on their healthcare journey. All functions of a business are important, but improving patient engagement means your staff needs to focus their attention on cultivating relationships. The best way to lessen your team’s load without sacrificing quality is to automate tasks.
A comprehensive scheduling tool like TimeTap automates things that can be done manually so there’s more time for patients. Features like custom intake paperwork with required forms during booking can help your front desk save time. If you have more than one office, keep your staff’s schedules organized in multiple locations with automated waitlists and two-way calendar sync.
Being responsible for updating multiple schedules and tools increases the risk of human error, which may lead to costly mistakes like double booking. As an all in one solution, TimeTap gives you the ability to oversee multiple features in one location.
Offer online scheduling
An overwhelming 90% of patients say they prefer to self-manage their healthcare with technology and online tools, including booking appointments. Online scheduling lowers administrative costs and helps reduce the risk of no-shows. Since rescheduling or canceling can be done without involving anyone else, it’s much more convenient for patients to be accountable.
When your patients are engaged they'll come to appointments prepared, as opposed to filling out last-minute paper work in the office. This allows your staff to have more time to help patients check in and keep the office traffic flowing.
TimeTap offers online appointment scheduling for organizations with complex needs. You can create a custom booking site, embed your scheduler on your practice’s official website, and manage everything from your dashboard. Giving patients an easy option for appointment scheduling opens your practice up to new and engaged patients for your business.
Post-appointment check in
Following up with patients after their appointments is vital. This is a great opportunity to become aware of any lingering questions or concerns. Patients are only human, and they could have forgotten to mention something or left out a seemingly minor detail when describing their problem. Furthermore, you can ask for feedback on the quality of care and the patient’s overall experience.
To check in after an appointment, you can send an email, text message, or get creative with a survey. Use TimeTap’s automated messaging feature to create follow-up templates customized to engage patients after an appointment. Keep an eye on the success of your follow up messages directly in your account, without the need for third-party software.
Prioritize patient education
In order for patients to be engaged, they first have to be activated. Patient activation, meaning “the possession of knowledge, skills, ability, and willingness to manage one’s care”, can be achieved in various ways, but educating patients is usually the path of least resistance. Once a patient is aware of a problem, or knows that they are at risk, they become extremely willing to learn what they can to make informed decisions.
Some practices that specialize may offer classes that teach diabetics how to live with their new diagnoses or courses for family members on taking care of a family member with a poor prognosis. Other forms of education may be preemptive, like a nutritionist sending a new patient a booklet on healthy eating habits before the first appointment.
Set up telemedicine options
The telehealth industry is booming with no signs of slowing down. Telemedicine is convenient, useful, and as some studies have uncovered, results in better outcomes than in person visits. Starting a new service with technology may seem daunting, but offering telehealth appointments is easy when you have the right tools.
TimeTap’s powerful features allows patients to book and manage appointments online, securely process payments, and choose their preferred appointment type. Setting up telehealth appointments or consultations is easy with TimeTap, especially when you take advantage of integrations like Zoom and Zapier.
42% of Americans reported they would be more likely to follow prescribed treatment plans if they got reminders and encouragement from their healthcare provider. It may not seem feasible to reach out to every patient and give them a reminder, but with the help of technology, it won’t take extra time from your day.
You can set up recall campaigns in TimeTap to be sent to the patients you choose, and when you choose. If you have a mental health patient who should be recording their thoughts and feelings while on a new medication, set up a recall campaign to deploy one week after the appointment to check in. To keep your appointments top of mind, set up automated appointment reminders in your TimeTap dashboard. You may be surprised at how many patients are a no-show at their appointment simply because they forgot.
The key to patient engagement is ensuring that patients, caregivers, and practitioners are all on the same page - sharing information to actively participate in a patient’s healthcare journey for the best outcome. Inarguably, how involved a patient is in their own care is ultimately up to them.
The main goal healthcare providers should have is encouraging and supporting patients using strategies, feature rich software, and tools built for streamlining patient management.