Communication is the Key to Patient Engagement

posted on Thursday, April 4, 2019

Anyone working in healthcare today has been indoctrinated in the ‘patient experience.’ What began as a buzzword, turned into a mainstay mantra for healthcare practices around the country. But often times terms such as ‘patient satisfaction’, ‘patient experience’ and the newest, ‘patient engagement’ are interpreted as one in the same. While the patient experience is still very important, patient engagement is what is driving healthcare outcomes today.

So what is the difference?

  • Patient satisfaction measures whether patients are happy.
  • Patient experience measures the quality of care patients receive.
  • Patient engagement measures how involved patients are in their care.

Patient engagement is simply defined as patient activation.

Healthcare regulations and the shift to value-based care will impact not only healthcare providers and teams, but all of us as patients. Practices and providers are being asked to promote preventive health education and services. Patients are being asked to be more proactive in managing their health. The goal is a healthier patient, a healthier community, and cost savings all around.

According to the CDC, 90% of the nation’s $3.3 trillion in annual healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions.

Heart disease and stroke are among the leading conditions that cost healthcare $199 billion per year. So not only is the focus on a healthier population, but it’s also about how to achieve health savings, both for the patient and the system.

So the challenge and opportunity lies in how to engage patients in their health and wellness. It starts with communication and ends with communication. Good relationships are built on good communication. Healthcare needs to embrace relationship marketing. Treating a patient is no longer a one and done transaction. The average 8- to 10-minute office visit with a doctor is not enough.

There are so many communication outlets today. The good old fashioned face-to-face communication is still powerful, but not enough. It’s a 24/7 world, where we are accessible at all times. Research shows the average patient has to hear or see something at least 4 to 7 times before taking the desired behavior. How are we using the power of print, mailings, digital technology, community events and more to educate patients?

What do patients receive from practices and providers throughout the year? How do they know to come in for certain age-based screenings and vaccinations? What do they need to know to manage chronic health issues? Do Medicare patients know they can come in within the first 12 months for a one-time Welcome to Medicare Preventive Visit? What wellness tips and education do they receive throughout the year?

Remember patient engagement is activation. And activation is a result of good communication.

Tips for Improving Patient Engagement and Health Outcomes:

  1. Embrace the patient portal and automated messaging tools.
    Personalized communication to patients with targeted health education and wellness topics. Be intentional and create a 12-month calendar of healthcare topics.
  2. Be aggressive with Patient Recall.
    Appointment reminders, both print and automated. Communications about age-based screenings and vaccinations.
  3. Maximize office visits.
    Promote health and wellness during the visit. Lobby signage, TV monitors, patient collateral.
  4. Utilize your digital marketing tools.
    Website announcements, education articles, practice blogs, social media, patient testimonials, YouTube videos.
  5. Host community events.
    Health fairs, lunch-n-learns, meet and greets.
  6. Targeted billboard campaigns.
    Add some emotion to your marketing. Nothing pulls at the heartstrings more than a patient success story.