Engaged patients are proactive about their health. Implementing a robust, multi-channel patient engagement strategy that caters to their needs creates a positive experience that inspires patient activation, and eventually, loyalty.
Before you begin strategizing, ask yourself: what would it take for patients to become effective and informed managers of their health and healthcare? What level of patient engagement would empower patients to improve their health outcomes, and how might that control my costs? How can I make their visit enjoyable enough to make them schedule another, increasing patient engagement each time? We’ve compiled a list of ways you can effectively answer these questions.
Seven steps to a successful patient engagement strategy
To get and keep your patients participating in their care and enjoying their wellness routines, you have to develop a patient engagement strategy that works for them and your team. Improve your chances of building a successful strategy by following these evidence-based steps:
1. Determine each patient’s level of activation.
How will you be able to tell if your patients are able and willing to cooperate with your patient engagement strategy? You can assess their patient activation measure (PAM), which Patient Engagement HIT explains was created by researchers to define patient activation. This industry psychometric assessment determines how activated patients are based on their ability to:
- Manage their symptoms or illness
- Maintain their function and reduce health decline with prescribed activities
- Collaborate with providers in treatment and diagnostic choices
- Select providers and health organizations based on performance
- Navigate and advocate for themselves in their healthcare system
According to the National Institutes of Health, patient activation progresses in four stages. First, a patient must believe their role is important, then gain the confidence and knowledge required to act on that belief, gradually maintain and improve their health, and finally, stay the course — even under duress or pain from a chronic condition. This may take more time and planning when applied to population health.
Once you’ve determined each patient’s activation levels and openness to engagement, you’ll be able to tailor intervention and assess changes as you implement your patient engagement strategy at their individual pace and intensity.
2. Determine the types of information patients need.
Less activated patients may need more educational and motivational support and find it difficult to adopt new tools. Their strategy will include more technology training and shorter, simpler condition education outreach to improve patient outcomes.
A study published in Patient Data Access News found that patients who leveraged an educational portal had better outcomes. This was due to the multiple sources they were exposed to and the manageability of those sources.
Patients who are comfortable learning and using technology like patient engagement platforms, apps, wearables, and automation will likely have more time and energy to learn about:
- Symptoms and conditions: to understand what’s happening in their bodies
- Treatment options: to know their options so they can make more informed collaborative decisions
- Medications: to stay aware of contraindications that could affect their well-being
- Support groups: to find a group that supports and motivates them throughout their healing journey so they can better adhere to a care plan
Develop content for more types of patients and more types of patients will remain loyal.
3. Decide which channels to leverage for your patient engagement strategy.
Each patient is unique, and so are your communications with them. Attracting and retaining patients requires giving your practice a memorable personality and constant reassurance that you practice human-centric care by sending them the right message at the right moment and on the right channel.
A targeted, customized patient engagement strategy will generate loyalty. It starts with understanding what motivates patients, then addresses their needs via their preferred channel.
It may seem old-fashioned, but adding direct mail to digital campaigns can increase response rates, boost conversions, and improve ROI. According to a study published in the Canada Post, 75% of prospective patients who received direct mail were able to recall the name of the practice, compared with 44% who received digital communications only.
People respond more emotionally to timely printed pieces that they can post on their fridge without having to learn how to navigate new health tech platforms. Targeted direct mail can expand awareness while inviting a prospective patient to learn more about your practice by visiting your website. Empower patients at every turn and in every format you can.
Timely phone calls will help achieve better outcomes. It’s rare for consumers who call a company to talk to a human. Making phone calls will give you a reputation as the exceptional healthcare provider with a personal touch.
The Journal of Patient Experience published a study on a nurse-led initiative to call newly discharged patients. After a simple check of compliance, follow-up visits increased by over 15% and ER re-visits decreased significantly. That kind of successful patient engagement strategy requires integrating your CRM with a reliable healthcare phone system that tracks call frequencies and allows you to create follow-up call reminders, recordings, and notes.
According to a MailChimp survey, healthcare industry email open rates average 21.7% — that’s well above other industries. People who open email campaigns book appointments at a 5% higher rate than those who don’t. And these recipients prefer that the email be sent directly from their provider.
Social media engagement
With patients increasingly managing their own care, healthcare professionals are quickly learning to integrate intuitive social media data into the use of electronic health records (EHR). Millions of people share intimate details on social media. They might bemoan post-medication nausea or post a swollen wrist photo without realizing they need medical attention for a sprain. When healthcare providers pay attention to this valuable data, they can engage with patients at the right time and place.
Social media also promotes healing communities where patients find support and motivation to remain engaged. A pilot study described in The National Library of Medicine finds that “the integration of social media into clinical practice can empower surgeons to synthesize effectively a patient support community that augments patient engagement and satisfaction.”
Integrated platforms that securely automate text and phone call reminders about appointments, billing information, lab results, or upcoming services are critical to your patient engagement strategy.
A Healthy TXT survey found that patients prefer appointment reminders coming to their smartphones via text (phone calls were a close second). Texting saves your care team time and improves appointment attendance by sending reminders at a lower cost.
Seeing your patients is, of course, the most impactful way to engage them. A successful patient engagement strategy entails listening, empathizing, and responding to questions and queries that require more than a minute. Referring to these in-person interactions later in other channels will nurture your relationship, empower patients, and improve their trust in you.
Savvy healthcare providers leverage all of the above channels to build a robust patient engagement strategy that delivers communications to the right person at the right time in the right place. A Care Management platform like Welkin Health allows you to do just that — without a programmer.
4. Develop educational content.
Your patient engagement strategy should cater to your patient’s wellness strategy. The following are six of the most essential rules for creating content that engages and motivates.
1. Keep it simple.
Resist the medical profession’s love of jargon and acronyms — if there’s a simpler way to explain something, use it. To ensure patients of all education levels and attention benefit, clinicians and care managers should first explain conditions and treatments at the sixth-grade level. If the patient comprehends the material and craves more robust information, have it ready in a well-designed, skimmable format that cites studies they can delve into.
2. Be specfic.
Healthcare providers often tell patients what to do to improve their health, but don’t always tell them how. Simply telling them to stop smoking, lose weight, or exercise is not enough — you need to provide a step-by-step navigation guide to transforming lifestyles, habits, and mindsets. Delivering simple information in written, audio, or video form, either in-person or online, will empower patients to take that journey with you.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
Healthcare professionals and their patients often misunderstand each other because they wrongly assume they’re on the same page. Even asking a patient whether they exercise or eat a healthy diet can get you an answer fraught with misinterpretation. Probe further to ensure that you understand their perceptions of “healthy” and “exercise,” then explain in detail why they may need to change those perceptions in order to adhere to the care plan you’ve agreed upon.
In some instances, providers assume patients know less than they do. Over the last 20 years, we’ve moved away from the picture of an all-knowing doctor dictating instructions to passive patients. Thanks to the internet, patients can research and intelligently discuss symptoms, conditions, and treatments. Make sure to engage with them, read their research, and share yours — you can never learn too much. When you avoid assumptions, you’ll see your patients become more trusting and involved in reaching their health goals.
4. Create shareable content.
Patient portals are ideal platforms for sharing goals, action items, reminders, and data with patients. A single information access point enables patients to determine how they want to consume the data and share it with their other providers if needed.
Longitudinal care plans have become very popular. Rather than working in isolation, clinicians, care managers, and even some payers collaborate to ensure patients get consistent direction and encouragement throughout their wellness journey.
Electronic medical records (EMR) support this data, but they aren’t built for Care Management. To centralize data access and communications throughout the care continuum, your patient engagement strategy should leverage a robust Care Management platform.
5. Ensure accountability.
There’s nothing like having a deadline or goal and measurable accountability to encourage care plan participation. Enabling your patients to track progress toward goals and receive regular reminders, either individually or in a group of peers with common goals, will help — especially for a patient who begins to waver.
5. Share decision-making.
Shared decision-making (SDM) respects the rights of patients to make decisions about their care. The National Library of Medicine reports that: “By evaluating all available healthcare options and weighing patients’ personal values and preferences against available unbiased evidence, patients and healthcare professionals can make health-related decisions together, as partners.” The lack of SDM leads to worse patient-reported health outcomes, worse quality indicators, and higher healthcare utilization. Practicing SDM, on the other hand, helps providers improve patient outcomes.
Before beginning this critical portion of your patient engagement strategy, you should fully understand what a patient needs to share in decision-making. Listen to their ideas and help them understand all of their treatment options, the clinical evidence behind them, as well as possible short- and long-term side effects of each one before deciding together.
6. Make sure they have support once they leave your office.
When properly implemented, Care Management platforms can help empower patients to take control of their health and give your care team more time to focus on care delivery. However, not all health tech is created equal.
Choose software that makes communicating with patients simple. Managing treatment takes frequent check-ins and communications through a variety of modalities. Welkin’s omnichannel capabilities support check-ins through every step of care and give you peace of mind that you’ll never miss a message.
Make communication with large populations scalable with technology that automates intelligent workflows. Lessen your care team’s burden and burnout by allowing them to do what they do best — care delivery. Your patient engagement strategy platform should allow you to graduate patients from one phase of their care journey to the next seamlessly. It should also enable you to create email campaigns to nurture patients or pre-patients by building lists.
Finally, your team’s platform should allow them to deliver care at the right time — like Welkin, which was designed for today’s patient-centered care teams. It assigns necessary team members to address patient needs at the right moment to maximize your most precious resources — time and energy.
Take this checklist along when trying out new patient engagement strategy tools. Make sure the Care Management platform you choose:
- Streamlines communication with patients
- Allows you to customize your program
- Automates redundant or repeatable tasks to reduce care team admin workload
- Coordinates care
- Protects patient data
- Integrates with your EMR/EHR
- Tracks patient progress
- Empowers you to make informed decisions and prove your program’s effectiveness
- Allows you to measure your program’s efficiency
- Tracks patient satisfaction scores based on patient experiences
Level Up Your Patient Engagement Strategy
Now that you know what a successful patient engagement strategy looks like, you can start outlining your own — after implementing the platform that will enable your care team to follow through. Request a demo today.