Patient engagement takes the prescription, “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning,” to a new level.
It used to be that patients relied on doctors exclusively for everything healthcare: diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. Today, patients are encouraged to take charge of their own health to a larger degree, by staying informed and reminded that health care is in their own hands. And through technology, better patient engagement improves daily.
What is patient engagement?
It’s teamwork–doctors and patients improving health through technologies that help patients take a larger role in the decision-making and care of their health. Engaged patients have better results from their patient-physician interactions and relationship–and therefore better health.
Technologies that facilitate patient engagement
Patient portals for e-communication, social media and other technologies such as wearable monitoring devices drastically improve health engagement.
For example, electronic medication management information exchanges compile not only patient medication history but streamline the information transmission process from physician to pharmacist to patient. With adequate patient privacy safeguards, the future in medication management envisions medical records availability and sharing to all patient providers of each patient.
Additionally, patient portals provide a secure means of accessing physicians, personal health records, including lab and imaging results, diagnoses and recommendations, along with free Medline Plus (National Library of Medicine access), which helps patients answer common questions on their own.
The portal streamlines the traditionally cumbersome process of asking doctors simple questions. Most patients know the frustration of getting a quick answer from a doctor. Whether it’s regarding a prescription or symptoms reviewed at the last appointment, the usual process drags: calling the office, leaving a message, and having the message relayed back through staff to the patient. This takes time. Direct messaging through confidential email systems cuts down the middle man and saves time.
And rather than time-consuming and often delayed appointment scheduling for office visits, doctors are reaching patients through electronic means: phones and computers connect patient and physician through social media. For medical information and reminders about healthcare topics, tweets on Twitter or posts on Facebook help patients better understand their healthcare needs and services.
Social media is not only great to relay general information in small, digestible bites about health care but also to remind patients to use their patient portals and ask questions. Healthcare providers can remind patients to take their medications as prescribed as well as direct patients to information sources for their own health literacy–all in a sharing, community environment.
To test the efficiency of improved communication, pilot programs in several U.S. cities used various patient communication processes, platforms and tools to gage and improve patient healthcare. Some offices text messaged patients with reminders for wellness checks, vaccination schedules, flu shots, and general health information. They found texting boosted patient action by an estimated 85%.
And other facilities used electronics like IPod touches, videos and mobile apps for hospital discharge instructions so patients could replay the information at home, which led to greater overall patient comprehension and satisfaction.
The key to patient engagement is education, motivation, and access–but especially convenience.
The great push in forward-thinking health initiatives consists of data gathering through a host of channels, but primarily through the patients themselves. In fact, there are entire community projects dedicated to data gathering offered by ordinary website visitors. One such project called Quantified Self, pioneered by a couple of editors at Wired Magazine, is an online community that collects health habits data. They use the data to promote self-improvement in the general public.
One Quantified Self project tracks the habits and personal data of all sorts of contributors globally from the chronically ill to the top fittest athletes. They also offer discussion forums and tons of information on apps, books, articles and media for self-tracking, self-studies and story sharing.
The information gathered by devices, apps and self-reports serves multiple purposes: to graph data tracking and predicting trends, to provide information resources for users, and to analyze the data for patterns that solve questions to a specific study topic, say, how travel or traumatic life events affect weight loss.
And though most people themselves aren’t capable of the extensive data sorting and analytics the site conducts, the project does inspire public empowerment–people taking their health inquiries and solutions in their own hands by self-assessing and tracking their own patterns. Plus, the community sharing encourages participants to maintain the self-help health movement–especially since it’s so convenient.
Patients are more likely to stay informed and active in their own health if it’s convenient; accessing online websites like Qualified Self is easy. And they’d be more willing to share data with their healthcare providers with user-friendly, secure technology, apps, and portals well-integrated into their providers’ information and communication systems.
The more educated and proactive patient is healthier.
David Wright, principal of GetWellNetwork, observes hospital patients who are informed about their condition and care are likelier to recover and maintain health than those who are less proactive. He endorses simple technological information providers like televisions in hospital rooms and lobbies, anything with quick, easy access to pumped information to the public.
Technology, Wright asserts, improves patient engagement and experiences in three ways:
- Patient satisfaction: from hospital-wide televised tips and preventative information to electronic discharge instructions, increased and improved health education leads to greater patient satisfaction, according to post-discharge patient surveys.
- Quality and safety: Education also lessens incidences of accidents. As patients become more aware of risks, they take precautionary measures to safeguard themselves to workplace, hospital and home hazards.
- Efficient operations and cost savings: Making patients partners with caregivers in recovery goals and achievements in the hospital and post-discharge, results in earlier release and quicker recovery. Shared checklists keep patients and physicians on track.
Technology is key: Interactive care tools across the healthcare spectrum from hospitals, doctors’ offices and home to cyberspace communities, connect healthier, happier, more engaged patients to their own health power.
Health Hero provides smart, multi-channel and integrated health engagement experiences that are powerful and simple to deploy to patients in seconds. Contact us today to learn how we can create a customized plan for you!