If we know anything about technology, we know that it is constantly evolving. What’s in use today might be obsolete only a few years later, and keeping up with the changing landscape is imperative — especially in healthcare.
Patient engagement technology is a huge step forward in gathering actionable patient health information, improving the patient experience, and reducing costs for patients and providers. It provides a path to involve patients in their care and transform health systems into a patient-centered model.
Why the focus on increasing patient engagement? The World Health Organization reports that engaged patients can make more informed decisions about their healthcare plans. Clinical resources may be used more effectively if they are aligned with patients’ priorities. Plus, patient engagement can promote mutual accountability and understanding between patients and providers. Recommended strategies include technological methods such as additional modes of communication, providing patients access to their health information, and creating patient feedback systems.
Let’s dig into the current state of patient engagement technology to discover current trends and methodologies. Then, we’ll review where the industry is headed and what to expect down the line — as well as review patients’ wishes for technology to fit their needs.
What is patient engagement technology?
Patient engagement is the process by which patients are activated to become partners in their healthcare. When patients become engaged, they can improve their health literacy and become empowered to assist in the care plan decision-making process.
Add technology to the mix, and care teams can create a collection of health self-management, communication, and education services that are available on demand. Patient engagement technology solutions are varied — including everything from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to telehealth and wearable devices.
In addition, the industry continues to grow. Research from MarketsandMarkets™ reports that the global patient engagement solutions market is projected to reach $25.9 billion by 2024. This growth is driven by patients, who are seeing benefits such as reduced costs, more personalized health information, and an improved patient experience.
Imagine a patient who is experiencing chronic headaches. This patient could use a device to track their symptoms, and that data could be integrated into the patient portal so their clinician can easily see what the patient is experiencing to identify potential triggers. This kind of patient-centered care ensures they and their clinician are on the same page at all times and allows for high levels of accessibility when it comes to health data.
An industry shift: preventive, personalized, and participatory care
According to a report by Ernst & Young and the American Hospital Association (AHA), digital health technology can accelerate disruptive change in a number of ways:
- It can shift the delivery of care to anywhere at any time.
- It can enable healthcare organizations to advance by meeting patients’ needs upon demand, increasing connectivity, and using data to drive decisions.
- It can provide insight into population health data that may help address social determinants of health.
- It can transform the healthcare model to one that is preventive, personalized, and participatory.
Why the emphasis on preventive, personalized, and participatory? Deloitte explains the shift away from siloed care: “Companies and brands are now focusing on human experience and patient-centricity in an integrated fashion, aiming to execute patient marketing, communications, and support services with a continuous, informed, and humanistic approach — one that senses and responds to patients’ and their families’ needs in all the moments that matter across the journey from diagnosis and therapy to recovery and wellness.”
In effect, patients now expect cohesive technology solutions that not only protect their personal health data but also present data in a way that allows care teams to deliver customized care plans that lead to improved health.
In the U.S., there has been a shift away from the number of health procedures performed and toward improving health outcomes. Patient engagement technology assists in the delivery of preventive healthcare to achieve this goal.
For example, telehealth has enabled more convenient access to care in rural and underserved areas. Telehealth can connect patients to providers in areas that experience a shortage of physicians or a lack of specialists. It also allows clinicians to provide education when patients need it most, empowering patients with the information they need to make informed choices.
Another example is with remote patient monitoring (RPM). RPM devices allow at-risk or chronically ill patients to better manage their conditions because they provide real-time insight, such as symptom tracking, vital signs, and care plan next steps.
Preventive care also can reduce costs for patients. When serious conditions or illnesses are caught early, often during regular screenings, patients can avoid more costly procedures. In addition, health insurance plans cover the majority of preventive care.
Patient engagement technology platforms today expand providers’ view of the patient journey. They allow care teams to guide patients through their care plan with automated check-ins and customized, condition-specific interventions.
We’re now moving beyond EHRs. Instead, unified platforms exist to gather all patient data and communication in one place. In addition, these solutions offer a range of other features to ensure care plan compliance. Notifications can be sent to patients to remind them of their care plan guidelines, and alerts can be sent about a patient’s upcoming appointment.
On the provider side, clinicians get more data on a patient’s behavior, especially if a patient uses a wearable device. And with more information, care teams can better tailor a care plan for each patient. Consider patient-centered and patient-led digital health technology, which often include novel features that reflect patients’ needs and thereby can motivate patient usage.
In addition, Care Management platforms can also assist in patient education efforts. They enable clinical teams to deliver intuitive, engaging materials and resources that are personalized to a patient’s condition. Patients want to receive outreach that’s specific to their needs and engages them how they want to be reached, so your healthcare organization will need a range of patient engagement strategies supported by highly accessible patient data.
As reflected in the growing trend of technology centered around patients, patient-centered care is on the rise. Healthcare organizations need to pivot to whole-patient care, inside and outside of their walls, using digital methods to meet patients where they are.
Patients today expect to be able to receive answers to their questions and connect with their care teams as soon as they need them. Integrating more frequent touch points for patient communication is imperative. Streamlined communication platforms now allow for email, SMS, phone calls, instant messaging, and more to be sent from one place.
Other tools might include patient portals, telehealth and RPM, and artificial intelligence (AI) for targeted data analytics. All of these options allow patients to easily give their care teams the health data they need for clinical decision-making while helping clinicians make sense of the data and put it into action.
Likewise, patient satisfaction surveys can be delivered at the point of care via tables or as prompts in patient portals after an appointment. Then, the data can be organized automatically to provide decision-makers with a clearer picture of care plan effectiveness.
Smart devices and IoT
There are more smart devices available for consumers than ever before — and the market continues to grow. It’s been reported that the global market for portable and remote patient monitoring is expected to reach nearly $43 billion by 2027. Plus, according to the AHA, a number of studies have proven that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of RPM.
Smart devices — such as fitness trackers, electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors, blood pressure monitors, continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), and more — allow clinicians to access quantitative patient data, even for patients who aren’t diagnosed with chronic illness.
For example, smart watches can now detect signs of blood clots, stroke, or even asthma. They can remind wearers about proper exercise, track sleep patterns, and offer guided meditation to reduce stress. These devices can keep health top of mind for at-risk patients.
Data privacy is always at the forefront of our minds. Healthcare organizations especially should have strict practices in place to protect people’s most sensitive information. Patients are more informed than ever, so organizations also need to be prepared to field questions from patients on how their data is being handled.
All healthcare technology companies should be taking a layered approach:
- Permissions that protect data integrity while still enabling critical information to be shared between roles and teams
- Audit trail and security log to ensure every security action is visible
- Organizational security controls that allow teams to leverage multi-factor authentication (MFA) or single sign-on (SSO)
- HIPAA compliance and a SOC2 Type 2 certification
Engaging patients of the future
Moving forward, the future of healthcare is truly in patients’ hands.
In a study by KLAS Research, patients expressed their opinions about future patient engagement solutions they would like to see implemented. Many patients requested a consolidated portal in which they could view lab results, pay bills, schedule appointments, incorporate data from RPM devices, and send secure communication to their care teams. They also see value in vetted educational tools that provide context around conditions and illnesses — many of which should be integrated into the patient engagement strategy.
As we move toward even more connectivity and data accessibility in the future, now is the time for healthcare professionals to harness the power of technology to improve access to care, delivery of care, and healthcare support.
Are you ready to learn more about how to overcome barriers and improve engagement in your healthcare organization? Check out our guide to patient engagement.