Healthcare is an important industry. In some cases, the stakes of good service are literally life and death. Therefore, every healthcare organization and professional should strive to do everything possible to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.
Patient engagement needs to be a priority. Research shows that greater engagement leads to improved outcomes and reduced long-term healthcare costs. Read on to learn more about the importance of patient engagement and factors in promoting it.
What Is Patient Engagement?
In short, patient engagement is the practice of empowering patients to take a more active role in their healthcare so that they can make more informed decisions and achieve better outcomes. The logic is simple: patients who have access to information and are interested in understanding their healthcare needs can make better choices.
As you may have guessed, patient engagement can involve a lot of different tools and tactics. For example, healthcare information systems that give patients access to their medical records are included. So are more personal techniques such as cards with get well wishes and healthcare reminders. If the goal is to encourage more engagement in medicine, it probably falls under this umbrella.
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Why Is Patient Engagement Important?
While the idea of patient engagement isn’t exactly new, the term is becoming a buzzword, reflecting the increasing focus on this concept. These are a few of the reasons why healthcare providers consider it to be important:
Improved Patient Outcomes: A patient who is more involved in his or her healthcare can make better medical decisions. This includes choices such as improving diet, scheduling a check-up and getting a flu shot. In other words, patients who are engaged and have access to relevant information will tend to be healthier overall.
Public Health: While the above is true for individual patients, there are some unique benefits for society more broadly. When people make more prevention-oriented medical decisions, they tax the healthcare system as a whole less. Additionally, when they are engaged, they are also contributing data. That helps researchers further their studies.
Reduced Costs: For the patient, the provider and society, the costs of healthcare are reduced by engaged patients. For the individual, they can address problems earlier and more inexpensively. This benefit extends to providers and society as well. Additionally, technology and data can help streamline healthcare provision, reducing expensive inefficiencies.
Better Communication: Patients and healthcare professionals who communicate tend to be more on the same page. Of course, communication is very challenging with patients who aren’t interested. It is also challenging when providers don’t have the tools they need to efficiently interact with patients.
Happier Patients: When they are more engaged, patients are happier. Naturally, more easily manageable costs and better outcomes lead to more satisfied patients. However, this benefit extends beyond that. Patients are also happier when they feel like someone is listening and that they understand what is going on with their health.
There is another factor in the importance of patient engagement that is a little harder to quantify: optimistic and engaged patients tend to get better quicker. This is more than just making better choices and seeking help earlier. One’s mental state has an impact on outcomes. While positive thinking alone is by no means enough to overcome illness, it can help the process.
Healthcare organizations that focus on fostering engagement and satisfaction tend to achieve better results for themselves and for their patients. That is a pretty good incentive for investing in patient engagement.
Additionally, the process can be relatively cost-efficient too. While high-tech medical records systems may require an upfront investment, other options are much smaller in scope. For example, sending patients cards with getting well wishes has very low barriers to implementation and is a great way to show people that you care.
How Can Patient Engagement Relate to Satisfaction?
Engaged patients are more satisfied patients. That is obviously a good thing for healthcare organizations. However, the question remains: how exactly do engagement and satisfaction relate to each other?
Patient engagement would be called customer satisfaction in any other industry. They are essentially the same thing although the stakes are different for healthcare. Consider the last time you got poor service at a restaurant. Perhaps a wait staff member was rude and distracted. Chances are you would be less likely to return to that restaurant in the future.
This issue affects healthcare too. Patients who are frustrated don’t want to maintain their health. They become unengaged because they are unsatisfied. These are a few ways that a patient may become unsatisfied with conventional healthcare practices:
The patient receives a bill. This can be paid in the mail, an archaic inconvenience in the modern economy. It can also be paid over the phone, but that may require wait times and the office may be closed. If the patient has any questions about the bill, he or she needs to call up.
The patient needs to schedule a routine appointment. He or she needs to call the office and hope that there is a convenient opening. If it is the end of the day on a Friday or the weekend, the patient will have to wait until Monday morning. For many professionals, office hours are also their work hours.
The patient needs to plan an extra 15 minutes for paperwork. If he or she forgets, the appointment could get delayed. The standard paperwork doesn’t need to be completed in the waiting room; it could be done beforehand.
These are minor inconveniences, but they add up. While a patient may be alright with being inconvenienced to take care of his or her health, chances are that he or she is less enthusiastic about it due to an unsatisfying experience.
Patient interactions that aren’t designed around satisfaction motivate the patient to take an active role in his or her health. This works the other way too. Patients who are actively involved and informed are less likely to forget about scheduling an appointment or that they have an outstanding bill.
Letting people manage their appointments 24/7 is just like a restaurant letting people book reservations online. Making sure that patients feel looked after is just like ensuring that your cashier clerk is welcoming and helpful. Healthcare providers that invest in engagement improve satisfaction and benefit the businesses as a result.
How Can You Foster Patient Engagement?
The benefits of patient engagement are significant. So, you are likely wondering how you can harness the power of this practice.
At the heart of patient engagement is information. Patients should have access to useful information about their health. They should also have easy access to information about more practical matters such as appointment times and availability. Most patient engagement strategies revolve around getting the right information to the patient at the right time.
Electronic health records systems are essential to engagement. They give healthcare providers digitized information that can be shared with patients. People should have access to a portal where they can view their own records.
Of course, patients don’t understand records in the same way a doctor might. It is essential to simplify and explain health data. Providing health education resources can be very powerful.
Another element is sending reminders and messages to patients. For example, providers can send emails and texts to remind patients about upcoming appointments. Ideally, they should have a system in which they can send questions and updates to patients without needing an appointment. Better yet, they can use these systems to send get well wishes when appropriate.
Similarly, patients should be able to reach out to providers easily. Those same messaging systems should let them ask questions of their own. Additionally, they should have support resources so they can learn more about their health concerns easily.
In short, patient engagement can be fueled by people’s desire to take an active role in their own healthcare. Simply giving them the tools to do so is a big step in the right direction. This can be compounded by a staff that is pleasant, professional and helpful. The little things add up to make engaged and satisfied patients.
Give Your Practice a Caring Touch
Showing your patients and customers that you care is an important part of keeping them engaged. One of the best ways to do this is with a card. Whether you want to remind them of an upcoming appointment or send get well wishes, you can do it with a friendly and fun card. Alternatively, send a holiday card to celebrate the winter season with all of your patients.
Don’t just use any old card, however. Do more by choosing Cards for Causes. We have a large catalog of amazing designs on high-quality cards; and, when you make a purchase, a portion of the proceeds will go to the charity of your choice.
Patient engagement is all about improving health outcomes for patients. So, why not donate to an important medical research cause when you purchase your cards? With Cards for Causes, you can do exactly that. Check out our selection of get well soon, occasion and holiday cards.