The American Association of Medical Colleges projects a national physician shortfall of at least 37,000—and possibly well over 100,000— over the next decade. Research shows that Americans living in areas where primary care doctors and nurse practitioners are in short supply already face a greater risk for emergency surgeries and complications

With roughly 497,000 primary care physicians (PCPs) in this country and a shortage expected to continue, it’s nearly impossible for doctors to provide personalized care to each individual without the patients being engaged in their own care. Combining patient engagement with population health initiatives, therefore, is crucial to improve clinical metrics in patients, especially those at high risk for chronic disease. 

Utilizing population health management (PHM) to proactively tackle health disparities and keep patients healthy outside their care visits has the potential to minimize costly interventions, including emergency department visits, hospitalizations, imaging tests and surgery. It only makes sense that patient engagement, which enables healthcare consumers to participate in the medical care, prevention and maintenance of positive long-term health habits, only enhances those merits. 

Perks of Population Health Management + Patient Engagement 

Proactive patient engagement strategies drive population health goals and promote better health outcomes by encouraging patients to adhere to their recommended care. They enable healthcare providers to more easily identify groups of patients who need specialized care and offer them the resources to improve their outcomes. As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, research has found that patients who feel more connected to their care are more likely to follow recommended treatment plans, which drives better outcomes.  

Combining patient engagement with PHM also allows providers to customize their care for those patients using an approach based on their preferences and social determinants of health (SDOH). Studies show that personalization is very important to healthcare consumers, and it improves their trust in healthcare providers, increases retention rates and boosts population health outcomes.  

Important Pieces of a Solid PHM and Patient Engagement Strategy 

A key component of patient engagement is education. Physicians should provide targeted patient populations with health information that is relevant to and useful to them. By utilizing data to tailor healthcare to those patients, it empowers them to engage in shared decision-making.  

Similarly, healthcare providers should communicate with their patients in ways that are relevant and personalized to each individual. Whether it’s a phone call utilizing conversational AI or a HIPAA-compliant, two-way text message that addresses them by name and enables them to ask questions specific to their health, these customized communications help patients feel cared for and engaged in their health.  

Another essential component of personalized provider-patient communication is making it convenient, especially as the healthcare consumerism trend continues to expand. Patients want — and expect — access where and when it’s most convenient for them. 

How Automated Healthcare Technology Promotes Patient Engagement 

Automated technology enables providers to deliver relevant and valuable messages at scale while still maintaining a personal level of communication. For instance, a well-designed patient engagement platform reduces administrative burden while automatically managing routine patient education and communication. Such technology enables providers and their staff to communicate across the entire patient care journey.  

Patient engagement platforms also consider the underlying factors that often inhibit people from practicing healthy habits, information from which communications and other outreach campaigns can be designed to motivate patients to take positive actions for their health. By proactively engaging more patients, providers can promote shared decision-making, track key health metrics and enable patients to reach out to their doctors when they have questions or concerns.  

To offer the convenience patients prefer, digital patient engagement solutions should make it easy for them to schedule appointments, access patient education information, properly prepare for tests and procedures and pay medical bills online. Some technology even has the capability to safely reduce inpatient stays through proactive monitoring. All these advantages help create the necessary components of population health management

Newer to the healthcare technology scene is conversational artificial intelligence (AI). Used to deliver scalable and less costly medical support solutions that can help patients at any time via smartphone apps or online, it can assist healthcare providers in responding to common patient questions by generating clear answers that mimic human interaction and asking follow-up questions if necessary.  

Healthcare providers can even employ conversational AI solutions to conduct post-discharge follow-up, which is important for a smooth and effective care transition for patients who have been hospitalized. Post-discharge phone calls are one of the most economical methods recommended to reduce 30-day hospital readmission rates and are associated with reduced readmissions. 

Another example of a healthcare technology tool that promotes patient engagement while contributing to population health management is HIPAA-compliant two-way text messaging. With this technology, providers can easily and securely send patients automated text messages to nudge them about an upcoming appointment and remind them of their care plan guidelines. In a group of studies involving 2,742 patients with a range of chronic conditions, interventions via text message doubled the odds of medication adherence, raising the rate of adherence to 67.8 percent.   

Any such technology solutions, however, should also reduce the administrative burden for both physicians and their staff. If not, they will only exacerbate the already high prevalence of physician and nurse burnout.  

Are you searching for solutions to proactively engage with your patients and improve outcomes? Check out our conversational AI solution for patient engagement. Simply call 540-516-3602 to start your interactive demo, and use test patient Sara Morales D.O.B. 7/20/81.