Patient Engagement: the Buzzword That Is Revolutionizing Healthcare

Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson

Posted on March 11, 2014

Patient EngagementIf you are in healthcare, you have likely heard of the latest buzzword on the tip of everyone’s tongues: patient engagement. It refers to the process by which patients become active partners in their health. Ever since CMS made it the main focus of Meaningful Use Stage 2, it has become one of the things doctors and healthcare decision-makers talk about most.
Not surprisingly, at last month’s annual HIMSS conference, the largest healthcare IT event in the U.S., patient engagement was one of a handful of key topics, with more than 40 education sessions focusing on strategies and technologies to increase patient involvement in their own health. Not to mention, the several thousand square feet of space at HIMSS that were dedicated to a Connected Patient Learning Gallery.
Even so, despite all the buzz surrounding patient engagement in healthcare, it is not exactly clear how medical practices can achieve it or what the benefits are for those who succeed at increasing patient participation in their health. For many, it has become a daunting task.
It turns out, however, that getting patients invested in their care isn’t all that complicated – and the benefits far outweigh any hurdles that might get in the way. Patient engagement, after all, has been linked to better health outcomes, reduced costs, and increased patient satisfaction. With findings like these, not worrying about patient engagement seems almost careless. Who wouldn’t want their patients to be healthy and happy, right?
For these reasons, healthcare organizations in today’s increasingly patient-centered landscape should have a comprehensive patient framework in place – one that goes beyond just meeting requirements for Meaningful Use Stage 2.

Empowered patients make smarter decisions about their health.

Encouraging patient-provider collaboration is one of the best things you can do to start improving health outcomes. This will help your patients feel more like members of their health team and less like passive recipients of care. It will also get them to start thinking about their health even when they are not at the doctor’s office, making them more likely to make smart decisions all year long.
How can you achieve this without having to physically call patients all the time to check in? One way to do so is by encouraging them to use your healthcare organization’s online portal. Most portal systems can be used by patients to:

  • View visit summaries to get a better idea of what was discussed at each appointment.
  • Track vitals and custom care plans to better manage health goals.
  • Send providers private messages when they have questions about their health.
  • Receive reminders from their physicians for things like important follow-up appointments.
  • Access educational materials and resources to learn more about their medical condition.

Although many adults (35 percent, to be exact) have used the Internet to figure out what medical condition they or another person might have, as a physician you have no way of controlling how much of the information your patients find online is accurate.
If you work with patients to understand their medical situation and what they can do to control or improve it, their online searches can be more targeted and precise. Not only that, you can also encourage them to do extra research on their own by recommending certain websites or assigning “homework.” This will give patients something to think about between visits and strengthen the partnership they have with their care team.
Is your hospital or medical practice actively involved in patient engagement activities? Tell us about the changes you have noticed in terms of patient satisfaction and health.

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