Leveraging Tech & Other Tools to Increase Patient Engagement

By Larissa Long Feb 02, 2024
Boost patient engagement in healthcare using these strategies.

Patient engagement is one of the key paths to success in value-based care. It helps to achieve healthcare’s Quadruple Aim: enhanced provider and patient experience, improved population health, and lower cost of care.

Engaged patients have a strong motivation to partner with their doctor to achieve the best health possible. People invested in their well-being do a better job of managing chronic conditions and are more likely to adhere to their medication and treatment plans. This means fewer hospitalizations, less medical waste, improved health outcomes, and greater revenue potential for providers.

How to Boost Patient Engagement

Patient engagement starts with good communication—the key to building a trusted, collaborative, long-term relationship.

In-person conversations are incredibly important, allowing providers to get to know their patients on a personal level. According to Carmen Spanier-Hoar, senior manager of quality improvement at Innovista Health, “Understanding cultural differences as well as communication and education preferences play an important role in effective doctor-patient communication.”

But to keep patients engaged, the lines of communication must extend outside the exam room. This means regular touchpoints throughout the year—at the right time and through appropriate channels—to share relevant messages.

Decades ago, this could be challenging. Today though, providers can leverage a variety of technology-enabled tools to increase patient engagement.

If you don’t already have a robust engagement strategy for your patient population, consider the following initiatives.

Automate the Experience

“Automation benefits both patients and providers,” explains Spanier-Hoar. “In practices, it frees up staff time and can help fight burnout. For patients, it is a quick and straightforward way to share important updates.”

Technologies that elevate patient engagement and experience include:

  • Automated calls, emails, or text messages: Remind patients of upcoming appointments, vaccine clinics, health campaigns, and if they are overdue for an annual wellness visit or screening. Notices like these increase compliance and close care gaps.
  • Electronic health records (EHRs): EHRs allow providers to send communication via multiple sources. They also offer conveniences such as online scheduling, bill pay, forms, questionnaires, self check-in, and more. Simplified experiences lead to happier, more engaged patients.
  • Mobile apps: Some apps link directly to a patient’s medical record, making it even easier to foster engagement.

Segment & Target

Population health—the health stats and outcomes of groups of people vs. one individual—can help practices understand the unique characteristics and risk factors of the various patients they serve.

Using that data, they can segment their patient populations to better target their engagement efforts. Sending meaningful messages to the appropriate audiences ensures they feel heard and understood. It also leads to more personalized care.

Populations can be segmented based on health needs, demographics (age, sex, race, etc.), psychographics (attitudes, values, and beliefs), behaviors, or geography.

For example, densely populated urban areas have a higher risk of flu outbreaks. Rural areas may be more affected by food insecurity or lack of reliable transportation. These populations can benefit from targeted campaigns announcing flu shot clinics, food banks, and more.

You can also segment by chronic disease state. Targeting people with diabetes to remind them about eye exams, bloodwork, and other routine care can increase compliance and improve health outcomes.

Pre-Visit Engagement

Streamline appointments and improve patient experience by starting the intake process several weeks prior to their arrival.

Nobody enjoys rushing through intake forms in a waiting room. Send these via email, text, or through the portal so patients can fill them out ahead of time.

For those who do not have access to a computer, consider mailing the forms. Be sure to include a stamped and addressed envelope so the patient can easily mail them back.

Pre-visit touchpoints not only reduce patient stress, they allow providers to adequately prepare for appointments by reviewing medical history/updates as part of their pre-visit planning.

Shared Decision Making

Gone are the days of the provider taking control of an appointment while the patient listens quietly. Today, more patients than ever want to learn about options and share in decision making.

Communication and education empower patients can become collaborators in their care. To educate patients on their options, take advantage of EHRs. These tools often give patients access to studies, articles, and other resources. Engaging with the patient through portal messaging can help answer questions, provide clarity, and build stronger trust.

Post-Appointment Engagement

Be sure to follow up after an appointment, procedure, or hospital stay by sending automated status checks and follow-up instructions. If you have the time and bandwidth, call the patient personally or ask a member of your staff to check in.

Post-appointment touchpoints heighten patient engagement even more. This results in greater adherence to post-care instructions and reinforces your commitment to their health and well-being.

Additional patient follow-up could include surveys. Electronic delivery is easiest (QR code, email, text message, or patient portal). However, always offer paper handouts as an option. Provide a stamped and addressed envelope or place a secure box in the office for the patient to drop it off before leaving.

The Bottom Line

It is more important than ever for patients to be active and engaged in their healthcare. The strategies discussed here can help you create a reliable and structured strategy so you can build stronger relationships and engagement.