Patients who aren’t involved in their care decisions have a 34 percent higher chance of readmitting than those who have some degree of involvement. With hospital readmissions costing $41.3 billion annually, patient engagement and satisfaction are important concerns for healthcare organizations. However, it isn’t as simple as implementing or updating online patient portals.
Patient engagement refers to the willingness a patient has to manage their own health in addition to their skills and ability to do so. Goals of engaging patients may include driving positive health outcomes, reducing readmissions, and reducing care costs. Here are five ways to boost engagement with your patients.
1. Get Patients Actively Involved
When possible, start by having a conversation with your patients about their preferences, values, and goals. Having them set health-related goals such as walking their daughter down the aisle at her wedding after knee surgery or getting off certain medications is one way to encourage patients to become actively involved in improving their health.
By setting personal goals, patients become invested and open to shared-decision making. Educate patients about the possible treatment options that will help them achieve their goals and decide on a treatment plan together.
2. Don’t Forget About Loved Ones
In a 2019 survey, 35 percent of respondents ranked support from family and friends as the number one most effective approach to engaging patients in their health goals. Likely because long-term changes such as quitting smoking or adopting a healthier diet have lasting impacts when combined with social support.
However, support from loved ones is still important when it comes to short-term health conditions. Small gestures like emailing a patient’s family members before surgery in order to help make a meaningful connection can help a patient feel supported in times of need.
After hospital stays, this support is critical. Family members, friends, and neighbors often become informal caregivers after episodes of acute care, surgery, or in cases where long-term care is needed. Including caregivers in the discharge process has been shown to reduce 90-day readmissions for elderly patients by 25 percent.
3. Provide Easy-To-Understand Resources
Improving health literacy in patients, even those who may be well-educated in other fields, is an important step in getting them engaged in self-care or in managing chronic diseases.
Using plain language when providing written and oral information is key to ensuring patients understand an otherwise complicated health system. Some elements of using plain language include:
- Avoiding jargon or overly technical language
- Defining medical terms
- Breaking complex information down into digestible chunks
More than half of providers spend 16 minutes or less with each patient. A take-home pamphlet or online resource may give patients information they may not otherwise receive during a short face-to-face talk with their provider.
Having written information to refer back to is important in any care setting, but even more so after an acute episode. In fact, patients that didn’t receive written information about what to look out for after leaving the hospital had a 24 percent higher risk of readmission. Adequate information at discharge leaves patients better equipped to avoid readmissions because they’re able to take more ownership over their post-acute care.
4. Open Doors for Communication
For patients, making information shareable can be as simple as providing them with online access (such as a patient portal) to health information like medical records, physician’s notes, and lab results. Studies show that people, especially those with lower incomes, become more engaged in their health when they have easy online access to their medical information. Patient portals can also be used for making appointments, sending appointment reminders, and reminding patients to receive preventative care.
Use patient portals to encourage two-way communication as a solution to answering questions and checking in on interventions or treatments. From personal experience, I once had a physician schedule a portal message a month in advance to ask me how my change in a medication dose was going. It took no more than 15 seconds and meant that neither of us would have to remember to follow-up a few weeks later.
For providers, creating care plans that can be shared within and outside of your organization help ensure that your patient is receiving treatment from the same playbook. This is especially important for complex or at-risk patients unable to have all of their needs met at a single point of care. Collective Medical makes care plans, medication lists, and health histories shareable across both small communities and the nation, allowing patients to engage on a consistent care plan with their entire care team—no matter where they go.
5. Follow-Up as Needed
Sometimes, ED visits and other acute encounters happen. While, not ideal for the patient, this is a great time to reengage and ensure they get back on track with their health goals. Learn how Aspire Health Alliance increased patient engagement 150 percent using Collective to notify case managers when patients visited the hospital, allowing them to follow-up with patients during their hospital stay.