What Is Patient Engagement and Why Is It Important?

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The benefits of patient engagement can help you, your staff and your patients.

As doctors adjust to the widespread practice changes of the past few years, patient engagement presents new opportunities to level up your relationships, provide more frequent contact, and encourage patients to connect with your practice as needs arise. 

We’re in an era where it’s easy to let relationships slip. This isn’t a failure; it’s a natural outcome of increased demands on all medical practices. The goal of patient engagement is to enhance responsiveness on both sides of the relationship.

Let’s take a look at how you can make this as easy as possible for you, your staff and your patients. 

Why Is Patient Engagement Important?

Patient engagement in healthcare is about interaction and the results of those interactions:

  • When your practice is engaged, you’re empowering patients to fit medical care into their lifestyles. You’re sending appointment reminders, offering safe check-ins, making record access faster, and requesting feedback about their experience.
  • When your patients are engaged, they’re doing things like scheduling and showing up for appointments, asking questions, and following recommendations they trust. 

With improved communication and responsiveness outside of visits, doctors and staff can be freed up to focus on building trust or rapport with individuals during visits.

For some medical practitioners, this can be part of why you entered the field in the first place. How you administer care may change over time, but change doesn’t have to diminish the quality of your care. 

Patient engagement helps to ensure the quality of your care stays as high as possible.

Patient Engagement Strategies

Building patient engagement strategies can be relatively fast and easy when you focus on digital tools and automation to assist you. 

For example, it can take hours a day for front office staff to make appointment reminder phone calls — or you can automate text messages through your patient management system for rapid, streamlined responses. 

At busy medical offices, it may make the most sense for you to take advantage of patient engagement tools that help speed up and simplify patient management.  

New technology acquisitions and a deeper focus on engagement can relieve your staff of time-consuming taskwork. The enhanced features of premium engagement products can also help involve patients in their own care by offering convenience, accessibility, appropriate transparency and stronger communication.

Telehealth

Telemedicine plays a vital role in healthcare engagement today. By offering phone or other device-based appointments, you can expand your practice’s reach to more patients and increase follow-up care. At ModMed, we’ve added real-time audio and video to EMA® for healthcare professionals and PocketPatient™ for patients to foster greater telehealth capabilities.

Patient Apps and Portals

Patients are more likely to be engaged when they can access and manage their healthcare information from anywhere with internet access. Empower them to review and update records, launch telehealth appointments, see lab results, request refills, and pay copays and balances. Apps and portals can also help reduce the administrative burden on your staff.

Self-Scheduling and Reminders

We live in an always-on world. Self-scheduling and automated confirmations and reminders are some of the easier ways to get patients engaged. On your end, you can still maintain control over availability, customize appointment-type configurations, and manage waitlists to increase productivity. Patients get 24/7 access to real-time availability that works for them.

Automated messaging can facilitate additional engagement by sending appointment reminders, patient recalls for future visits, and invitations to reschedule if patients miss an appointment.

Digital Kiosks

Once patients have arrived at your office, you can help keep them involved in the process by offering digital kiosks. These are attractive to many doctors, staff and patients because they can speed up visits, empower patients to assist in accurate data entry, and aid in social distancing when required. They also help support a paperless workflow at your practice, which frees your staff loads the data for you

into ModMed®’s EMA EHR system, including medical, social and family history, medications, allergies, pharmacy information, consent forms, and more.

Feedback and Surveys

Text and email surveys can be invaluable tools for your practice’s engagement. Get actionable patient feedback, activate satisfied patients to serve as advocates, and create space for any negative feedback to be handled with privacy and diplomacy. By requesting a direct response about your patients’ visits, you show that you care about their experiences and are willing to give them the attention they deserve.

Benefits of Patient Engagement

Patients who are engaged are more likely to take responsibility for their health and well-being. That could mean better health results, reduced costs and streamlined appointments.

Better Health Results

There are a number of ways in which patient engagement strategies can help lead to better health results. 

Engaged patients may stick to preventative behaviors and avoid risky ones. They may be more likely to take medications as prescribed. If a challenge occurs, they may recover more quickly, because they’re following physician orders more closely. These patients may also identify a need for care earlier than patients who are not engaged, which can help avoid late intervention and may improve prognosis or reduce hospital admissions.

Reduced Costs

All of the ways in which engaged patients may reduce the need for or severity of medical intervention can also result in reduced healthcare costs. These reduced costs are a result of a lesser need for treatment, but also because physicians and their staff are running efficient businesses that rely on the cost benefits of automation and a centralized EHR.

Streamlined Appointments

By streamlining appointment scheduling, reminders and rescheduling, your practice’s front office staff feels less harried throughout the week. This allows them to focus on your practice’s success metrics, while offering the level of personal engagement and patient service that can help distinguish your practice from your competition. 

The Challenges of Patient Engagement in Healthcare

Alongside the many benefits of patient engagement, practices can use automation and technology-based tools to mitigate some of the challenges of patient engagement. Overcoming these challenges can unlock benefits more easily for everyone.

Communication

“One out of three patients surveyed claim they missed appointments because they did not get a reminder from their doctor’s office.*” 

This stat highlights the importance — and challenges — of communication in patient engagement. Missed appointments can be frustrating for everyone. If up to one-third of your patients missed at least one appointment, it could get costly for you, too.

Patient Trust

Ultimately, it’s everyone’s problem when patients don’t obtain the care they need from your practice:

  • They may suffer medically or miss important chances for progress.
  • Your practice may fail to meet its potential, qualitatively and financially.
  • Your next appointment with them may be strained or less effective.
  • They may become less engaged over time, due to inconvenience or their own emotional responses to lack of communication.

These experiences can erode patient trust, leading to a relationship that slowly declines over time. Stay current with patient engagement tools to avoid these types of scenarios.

Environmental Impacts on Health

Other scenarios may be harder to control, but with patient engagement, you can begin to direct positive change. For instance, some patients may eat a poor diet or live in a food desert. Others may live in rural areas which make it difficult to access care. With the right technology, you can start addressing these signals that engagement may be low.

Health Literacy

Use patient engagement to fill in gaps in health literacy, as well. If patients don’t understand why something is important or how their behavior impacts their health, they may make decisions that slow their progress towards strong outcomes. By making it easy on them with accessible, easy-to-understand portals and apps or by making time to review results or orders in detail via telehealth or other ways, you can help patients increase their health literacy so it doesn’t hinder them. 

By elevating the importance of patient engagement at your practice, you can decrease the likelihood of these risks, while increasing the possibility to provide better, more frequent, or more effective care.

Interested in more ways your practice could benefit from patient engagement?

woman looking at phone with appointment reminders

Ready to modernize your practice with patient engagement tools?

*According to the ModMed “What Patients Really Think” 2022 Report conducted by independent research firm One Poll.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult with your legal counsel and other qualified advisors to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards.

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