What is a patient engagement strategy?

Patient engagement is the process of encouraging patients to make informed decisions for their own well-being. Engaged patients are also called ‘activated patients’ and engage in positive behavior to responsibly manage their health and care. In turn, they enjoy better health outcomes and lower overall costs.

Why is patient engagement important?

These days, patients have become more mindful of their healthcare options. They think about their own health the same way they do about making major purchases or saving for retirement. Health literacy has improved tremendously, and patients want to make their own decisions.

This collaborative approach builds trust-based relationships, which encourage patients to stay invested in their health. Engaged patients are three times less likely to have unmet medical needs and twice as likely to avoid delaying medical care.

What are the benefits of patient engagement?

Patient activation and engagement can benefit healthcare organizations in many ways. For example:

  • Increased knowledge and understanding motivate patients to actively engage in their health and well-being. Patient education can lead to improved care and fewer visits to the emergency room.
  • Patient engagement helps increase healthcare revenue by reducing no-shows, allowing healthcare organizations to better manage their patient base.
  • Collaborating with engaged patients enables both parties to make more informed health decisions, improve communication and trust and increase patient retention.
  • Doctors and other healthcare professionals can provide patients with the best care, thereby improving efficiency and reducing costs.

What are the challenges of improving patient engagement?

Many barriers hinder patient education, which can affect patient outcomes. Some patients tend to be hesitant to make decisions due to a lack of health literacy. Others don’t have the digital access required to make more informed healthcare decisions. 

There are also instances where individuals are less likely to become activated patients because of social determinants of health (SDOH), such as education, age or religious or cultural beliefs. Healthcare professionals should be mindful of these factors when developing patient engagement strategies and helping patients improve their confidence in making healthcare-related decisions.

Sometimes, there are also challenges from the provider side. Traditional healthcare institutions are not set up for patient engagement, primarily because of a lack of access to advantaged technology. Also, physicians may not have the capacity or training to engage patients properly, leading to suboptimal health outcomes and non-compliance with treatments.

What effective patient engagement strategies can healthcare organizations implement?

Personalized interactions

Today’s customers expect all types of businesses — including healthcare establishments — to have a good understanding of their needs and desires. Thus, personalization is vital in healthcare. 

Your engagement strategy will be ineffective if you don’t know your patients’ preferences. Through customer journey maps and marketing technology, it’s become easier for healthcare providers to efficiently develop deeply personalized engagement plans to cater to each patient . As a result, healthcare providers can send the best message at the perfect time to the right people.

Technology integration

Patient data can be gathered from electronic health records (EHRs) and healthcare customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. The information collected is presented, organized and analyzed systematically to provide a better picture of what can be expected from a particular patient. These technologies work together to generate a holistic patient view, providing healthcare organizations with the needed insight to effectively deliver patient engagement efforts.

A marketing automation tool is also required because it systemizes outreach to formulate a continuous patient engagement journey. Healthcare providers can execute structured patient engagement through marketing automation through various channels such as email, chat, and social media cost-effectively and efficiently.

Healthcare organizations should also integrate their call center software with a CRM platform to increase patient engagement. An engagement center enables providers to have relevant and carefully-calculated patient conversations to increase patient engagement. These tools help formulate a robust patient engagement strategy for healthcare providers to proactively identify, execute and measure all types of engagement initiatives to deliver patient-centered healthcare.

Physician inclusivity

A successful patient engagement strategy doesn’t involve just healthcare marketers. Physicians should be involved to create patient engagement strategies in tandem with the rest of the organization. These healthcare experts contact patients frequently and can potentially tap their patients’ networks. Having physicians and their staff on board with the patient engagement strategy is vital to producing excellent results.

Staying engaged through aftercare

Patient engagement shouldn’t stop once a client leaves your office. Aftercare is an essential part of any patient’s treatment plan. Unfortunately, many patients misunderstand, ignore or blatantly choose not to follow aftercare recommendations.

Many individuals tend to disregard aftercare instructions when they are too complex or demanding. This lack of adherence can lead to poor health outcomes, hospital readmissions and, in worst-case scenarios, death.

Patient engagement during aftercare is essential to ensure that patients follow their aftercare instructions diligently. This proactive approach also improves trust between patients and their providers.

Aftercare patient engagement can include medication adherence, follow-up on possible complications and patient reminders. These reminders improve patient engagement and lower costs in the long run.