21 Patient Engagement Tools Your Care Team Needs

You’ve probably heard how much patient engagement tools can help all types of care teams deliver high-quality care — which leads to reduced readmissions, improved outcomes, and even higher patient satisfaction. But do you know exactly which patient engagement tools promote your team’s unique priorities and specialties? In this guide, we explore 21 of them to help you decide which to incorporate into your patient engagement strategy.

1. Virtual visits

Real-time telehealth — the use of video conferencing to provide virtual visits with healthcare providers — allows patients to see and interact with all kinds of specialists face-to-face, feeling as if they were in the room together.

Of all patient engagement tools in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has become the most critical. Virtual video visits with healthcare providers have enabled coronavirus patients to make an appointment any time via their patient portal to check in and stay on top of their condition and treatment. Virtual visits have improved patient access and patient satisfaction for millions, and now that they’ve gotten to know their providers better, many say they’ll never go back.

Telehealth and telemedicine services comprise a broad spectrum of digital healthcare services. Both large healthcare systems and small independent medical practices are applying this solution when they use remote patient monitoring for diabetes or hypertension, when they offer mental health and addiction healthcare services like teletherapy, and when they provide virtual visits through real-time video conferencing.

Tools for engaging patients like real-time video conferencing provide easy access to specialists for patients with debilitating chronic conditions—like diabetes, heart disease, or cancer—who may not be able to visit health centers and clinics as frequently as needed to be evaluated by their healthcare provider. It’s particularly convenient for mental health and addiction patients having a difficult time leaving the house.

2. Online scheduling

According to a Patient Pop survey, 80% of patients switch providers to have easy access to more convenient healthcare, and 68% are more likely to choose providers who offer the option to book, change, or cancel appointments online. By embracing online scheduling, your team can let patients choose the scheduling method that works best for them. If easy access to quality care is important to patients, it’s important to you.

Patients who work or have other commitments often don’t have time to call your office during business hours. Online scheduling provides the option to book available appointments 24/7, allowing easy access to your healthcare services and helping you keep your schedule full. It allows new patients to see you sooner when others cancel at the last minute. This is important because Patient Pop research also found that new patients who wait more than a month for their appointments are twice as likely to cancel than those who are scheduled within a week. This is a win-win for both your business and patient satisfaction.

Booking appointments isn’t a task that requires a human touch, so it’s not an efficient use of your care team’s time. When a software program provides easy access to appointments, your employees have more time to focus on healthcare — without having to put in overtime. Online scheduling could help staff increase patient satisfaction even before a patient visit.

3. Appointment reminders

After they’ve scheduled an appointment, patients get right back to their busy lives; your team will need to reach into your collection of patient engagement tools for one that can manage appointment reminders. Choose the one that helps your health system:

  • Reduce no-shows.
  • Encourage patients to cancel when they can’t make it.
  • Ensure reminders are seen.
  • Open up space in your schedule.
  • Reduce front office staff workload.

If you consider these goals when you’re deciding on a system for patient reminders, you’ll avoid a lot of healthcare costs and improve patient satisfaction. Although sending patients messages can be helpful, make sure you don’t send too many — being bombarded can stress them out. If they feel too much pressure, they take their business elsewhere.

Healthtech Zone’s best practices recommend sending a patient no more than three reminders about their appointment. Try to space these reminders out and send them via different methods so as not to overwhelm them. Always keep user experience and patient satisfaction at the forefront of your patient engagement strategy.

4. Patient portals

A patient portal is a secure online website that gives patients convenient, easy access to electronic health records (EHR) 24/7 from anywhere with an internet connection. Using a secure username and password, patients can view health information like recent doctor visits, discharge summaries, medication protocols, immunizations, allergy information, and lab results. A patient portal also allows them to securely message their provider, request prescription refills, schedule non-urgent appointments, check insurance benefits and coverage, update their contact information, make payments, download and complete forms, and read educational content. When patients are in control of their healthcare, patient communication becomes more frequent and patient satisfaction improves as they feel supported between visits.

5. Remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring is a method of managing acute or chronic conditions via patient engagement tools patients can use in their own homes, at work, in transit, or even on vacation. Some of the most popular remote patient monitoring devices include:

  • Glucose meters for diabetes management
  • Heart rate monitors to manage congestive heart failure
  • Blood pressure cuffs to measure blood pressure
  • Oximeters to measure blood oxygen levels
  • Continuous dementia surveillance monitors
  • Calorie logging programs
  • Exercise logging programs
  • Musculoskeletal Risk Stratification platforms
  • Grip strength sensors to manage Parkinson’s disease

These easy-to-use devices enable easy access to virtual Care Management by gathering and analyzing health data to streamline high-risk patient care. They enable your team to quickly determine whether their condition is stabilized, deteriorating, or improving by bringing real-time patient data to your fingertips; this way, you can provide higher-quality care to a greater number of patients. That means less burnout, higher efficiency, and lower costs for your health system.

When patients can check their vital signs or perform their own hemodialysis, heart rate tracking, or glucose monitoring with your remote guidance, they are likely to reduce costs by minimizing emergency room visits, shortening hospital stays, and preventing readmissions. By communicating consistently with them and teaching them how to follow their care plan, you can increase their care access and comfort while cutting costs for your practice.

To motivate and engage patients, you’ll need to educate them on the features of the technology and the evidence-based reasons you’re using it. Then, you’ll need to activate them so they can easily navigate their devices and become partners in their healthcare. Finally, you’ll be able to work on patient engagement by offering uplifting feedback with emotional and informational support after each interaction.

6. Patient apps

Of all available digital patient engagement tools, patient apps are the easiest and most familiar for patients who already use apps for various functions. According to a patient communication study published by the National Institutes of Health, which tracked patient experience scores, mobile health app users gave significantly higher scores than nonusers when asked about the quality of physician-patient communication, easy access to health information, short-term outcomes, and patient satisfaction.

Mobile health apps can improve the patient experience by providing quick and easy access to electronic health records, making physician-patient communication more convenient, and ensuring transparency about fees. This helps build trust in your health system, improving patient satisfaction. All of these factors may contribute to positive health outcomes.

7. On-call support

A healthcare call center helps ensure that every patient is placed on an easy access path to the healthcare they prefer. Patients have options and can easily find another provider. That’s why every interaction with your team must be impeccable. If patients have an urgent need, they should be able to book an appointment the same day. Every phone call counts. A quality call center will enable you to master doctor-patient communication and improve patient satisfaction. Health systems that don’t properly train service representatives to have empathy and professionalism lose patients.

According to McKesson Pharmaceuticals, call centers can generate a return on investment of three to one, driving revenue and patient loyalty to health systems. When they’re helped expeditiously in their time of need, they return again and again. That’s the biggest return for any practice.

A well-trained call center staff ensures easy access to the right appointment for the right patient at the right time. An experienced agent can handle the entire transaction, giving the clinical team more time to interact — on their patients’ terms.

8. Email notifications

Email notifications and nurture campaigns can help you establish a patient communication strategy that engages and helps you retain patients. Despite relatively low use, email patient communication has proven valuable to health systems, according to the National Institutes of Health. Their research found that the use of email for healthcare is highest among the youngest and most educated demographics, and the lowest among the oldest, least educated, and unemployed — corroborating the observation that when it comes to digital patient engagement tools, certain groups are at a disadvantage and may be disenfranchised in the attempt to get easy access to healthcare.

Low use does not necessarily indicate that patients are not willing to engage with their healthcare — they simply lack access or technical know-how. The NIH study also found that increased use of email increases overall virtual and physical engagement among patients with chronic and multimorbid conditions.

Understanding the nuances of email communication is critical for making easy access to healthcare equitable for all Americans. Developing guidance around best practices will provide opportunities for communities and health systems to learn from each other’s successes. Email is a patient engagement tool that serves multiple healthcare functions: treatment reminders, health check-ins, patient education, and even provider education on the latest research.

9. Text reminders

Healthcare providers in health systems of all sizes are leveraging SMS to provide easy access to their services by making the patient experience more convenient and personal. According to a survey published by Becker’s Health IT, more than half of respondents preferred receiving notifications such as appointment reminders and prescription updates via text message rather than email.

Some patients who become frustrated with the constant bombardment of irrelevant junk mail may skim their inbox and miss your message. They prefer text messaging because it is quick and customized — a major improvement for patient satisfaction.

Text messaging is also playing an important role in keeping patients engaged with their providers, motivating patients to improve their well-being and stay informed about their healthcare. Although incorporating any new technology into the workflow can be intimidating, once your team is on board, they’ll understand why text messaging has improved health systems’ patient communication with this secure and user-friendly channel.

10. Social media to educate

The definition of “social media” is broad and expanding rapidly. If it’s already one of your internet-based patient engagement tools, you know how it enables patients and communities to gather, communicate, share personal stories and images, and even collaborate in real time. These channels include:

  • Facebook, MySpace, Google+, and Twitter for social networking
  • LinkedIn for professional networking
  • YouTube and Flickr for media sharing
  • Tumblr, Blogger, Twitter blogs, and micro blogs for content production
  • Wikipedia for information aggregation
  • Second Life: user-created virtual world where health organizations can provide remote patient engagement education

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 60% of physicians favor patient communication via social media to provide patient education and health monitoring, encourage behavioral changes and drug adherence, increase compliance, and improve health outcomes. Studies have shown that electronic patient communication reinforces providers’ recommendations and improves adherence for patients with chronic diseases. It may also improve patient satisfaction by increasing patient communication time and allowing concerned patients to get their questions answered sooner.

An NIH survey of family practice patients found that 56% wanted their providers to use social media for reminders, scheduling, diagnostic test results, prescription notifications, and treatment questions. Patients who did not use social media said they would start if it would enable them to connect with their healthcare provider more frequently. Some providers, however, feel that interacting with patients on social networks is ethically problematic for either personal or professional reasons.

When used wisely and prudently, social media sites and platforms offer the potential to promote individual and public health, as well as professional development and advancement. When used inappropriately, these patient engagement tools can cause issues for providers, which is why health systems and professional societies are constantly refining evidence-based best practices.

11. Medication adherence reminders

Medication and care plan adherence are critical for people with chronic conditions. A study published by the National Institutes of Health found that integrating office visits with patient engagement tools for medication adherence reminders, electronic medication reconciliation, and pharmaceutical databases may improve care plan adherence and outcomes for cardiovascular patients.

Improving medication adherence by using pharmaceutical databases, customizing education to individual patient needs, delivering reminders to both patients and providers, and integrating in-person interventions with electronic alerts requires finding the patient engagement tools that fit your team’s workflow. NIH surveys suggest that automated reminders will compliment — but not replace — in-person patient communication about medications.

12. Automated surveys

The automated patient survey is one of those patient engagement tools that’s quick and easy to use — when provided at the right time and place. It can help your care team understand the reasons behind their positive or negative reviews and fulfill their needs during the next visit.

You can analyze patient responses for keywords to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your practice. This form of patient communication allows you to make more informed business decisions to provide higher quality care and a better patient experience, which leads to higher patient satisfaction and retention. By regularly asking patients to fill out surveys, your team will generate more positive online ratings as well as meaningful data that inspires further improvements in care delivery.

Survey automation offers easy access to online review sites immediately after a positive patient communication or treatment — while it’s still fresh on their mind. Send them to patients as soon as they leave your office using a variety of digital patient engagement tools so they can choose to respond to the one that’s most convenient for them. For many, a quick mobile phone survey is the easiest way to provide feedback in less than a minute.

Some health systems use the 0-10 Net Promoter Scale® or another quantitative patient engagement tool to get a pulse on their patient’s satisfaction. The patients who respond with high scores (9 or 10) can automatically be provided with links to social media review sites where they can share their positive experience with the rest of your followers and future followers.

13. Online reviews

Online reviews can help a patient determine whether or not to select your healthcare services. In fact, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, according to a survey published in Provider Tech. By driving satisfied survey submitters to review sites, you can quickly increase ratings on Facebook, Google+, Yelp, and other review sites to help make it easier for future patients to choose your practice.

A Healthcare Success survey found that digital patient engagement tools that provide practice feedback allow patients to get the treatment they wanted, strengthen doctor-patient communication, boost a provider’s search rank, create a sparkling first impression online, and build a provider’s brand identity and reputation.

14. No-show outreach

No-shows are a huge cost for a health system and can disrupt your team’s workflows by taking an appointment away from another patient and disrupting a smooth walk-in visit. Digital patient engagement tools assist you with outreach to make these appointments work for your patients.

In a case study published by Patient Engagement HIT, NYC Health + Hospitals used short text messages to touch base with patients before their appointments, asking them to confirm that they’re coming. After six months of using these simple patient engagement tools, missed appointments dropped down to 27%. In another six months, they shrank to 21% — quite low for such a large health system.

Besides driving patients to make appointments, you should find patient engagement tools that help you learn when they can’t make it — and do so in time to schedule another appointment. Your Care Management platform should integrate with your call center so your patients can manage their care from their patient portal. Your frontline staff will be able to see canceled appointments in real-time and schedule new appointments quickly and efficiently.

Health systems that serve high-risk populations must contend with various social determinants of health, including English language proficiency. Nearly half of the patients in this population prefer to speak a language other than English. Many electronic health records platforms can integrate reminder messages to patients in one of 14 different languages based on the preference listed in their medical records — a huge motivator for them to embrace these patient engagement tools.

15. Lab alerts

For decades, patient communication about laboratory test results has been shared inconsistently and inadequately. Patients don’t feel they’re getting quality care when wait times are long, errors are discovered in their results, or their results go missing. Patient satisfaction suffers, and they may seek a new provider after an anxiety-generating experience.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, 98% of patients prefer to be notified by short message service when their test results are ready. 82.5% want to receive both normal and abnormal test results via digital patient engagement tools like text, email, or patient portal.

The main reason? Nearly 77% of patients reported time savings and 31% cited a lower chance of missing the results. About 40% of participants said email notification was more secure than a hospital website.

Understandably, some patients expressed confidentiality and security concerns when using these patient engagement tools. When choosing a Care Management platform, make sure it’s HIPAA-compliant with multiple security measures to protect patient privacy — you’ll gain your patients’ trust and be more likely to retain them.

Digital lab alerts can decrease wait times, increase patient satisfaction, reduce multiple visits to offices and labs, and possibly even decrease urban traffic. These patient engagement tools also benefit health systems by decreasing the need for laboratory and administrative staff (including printing costs) and freeing up waiting room space for patients who urgently need to be seen. Doctor-patient communication can be streamlined, improving patient satisfaction.

16. Accessible medical records

In the past, patients who wanted their doctor’s notes faced long wait times and fees. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) made it legal to review medical records, but it did not guarantee patients electronic access. This is about to change.

Very Well Health reports that as of April 2021, the United States government requires healthcare organizations to share electronic health records with patients free of charge. The 21st Century Cures Act enables patients to read recap notes from their doctor’s office visit as well as look at test results and electronic health records via OpenNotes (a patient note access advocate).

Large health systems and small clinics that use software like MyChart will have to provide easy access to patients, allowing them to log in any time to see notes on consultations, imaging and lab findings, medical history, physical exam findings, and other procedures.

Executive director of OpenNotes Cait DesRoches explains that patients have two ways to get their notes: they can view notes that are posted automatically by the health system or they can request that notes be added to their patient portal manually. Flexible, interoperable solutions like this help your team activate patients while improving patient engagement and patient satisfaction.

The challenge remains for health systems, policymakers, clinicians, and patients to put these recommendations into practice. Eventually, a national infrastructure will be built with clear definitions for privacy, security and confidentiality, as well as easy access to patient and professional education. Patient-accessible Care Management platforms will help ensure the adoption of these evidence-based practices.

17. Online community and support

A report published in the AMA Journal of Ethics found that of the 74% of adults who used the internet, 80% researched their disease or treatment. Online health communities offer robust research data and case studies for patients, caregivers, family members, and friends — all of whom enjoy the emotional support and accountability these patient engagement tools provide when they’re striving to reach their healthcare goals. They cite the motivation and advice they get from other members as reasons for joining and staying.

In addition to offering information and support, these patient engagement tools can serve as the birthplace for social movements, like participant-led research. For example, members of Inspire who have spontaneous coronary artery disease (SCAD) convinced a researcher at the Mayo Clinic to create a SCAD registry for this rare disease. Without an online forum, these patients may never have connected and galvanized support for this important project that led to higher-quality care.

18. Accessible website and digital channels

Whether you’re a doctor, dentist, therapist, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) provider, or wellness coach, building and managing a healthcare website can be complicated, as it must be accessible to those with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability — requiring all entities, organizations (public, private, and not-for-profit) to provide equal access to all goods, services, information, and communication.

In 2017, a series of updates to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandated that all electronic and information technology (EIT), including websites and electronic documents in the U.S., comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). When you make your site accessible to everyone, you’ll begin to build trust and engage more visitors with your patient engagement tools.

Accessly recommends that your website be:

  • Perceivable: So any user — even those who are blind, deaf, or have navigational limitations — is able to find the content they need
  • Operable: So any user can navigate your website, or at least has the ability to use a simplified version while maintaining functionality
  • Understandable: So any user with disabilities can understand and act on the information you post
  • Robust: So any user is able to accurately interpret your content and instructions

19. Flexible payment plans and programming

Patients are used to an Amazon-like payment experience from their phones, and they want the same from their healthcare payments. Medical Economics reports that 75% of adults are online daily, and one in four report being “connected all the time.” Digital wallets, e-statements, and text reminders to pay balances are becoming more common. The survey found that 68% of consumers prefer to pay their medical bills electronically, and 92% want to know what their patient responsibility is before getting treatment.

Healthcare providers who offer patients multiple payment channels and methods build trust and improve patient satisfaction. To determine which options to offer, try using your patient engagement tools to assess your patients’ fiscal health. If they aren’t paying their bills on time, they’re already communicating that they’re experiencing financial challenges. Don’t treat that fact as a hassle — work with them, be flexible, streamline your billing options, and you’ll have a greater likelihood of receiving payments (and of retaining your patient). Make your health system’s financial experience as good as your healthcare experience.

20. Care coordination platform

Why do so many health systems struggle to organize and manage their healthcare delivery, allowing patient satisfaction to suffer? They may lack the care team training, care practices, and information technology required to reap the benefits of Care Management.

If you’re not equipping your team with a next-generation Care Management platform, they may be struggling with disjunctive healthcare delivery and allowing patients to slip through the cracks or settle for less effective care. When a patient care coordinator can quickly and easily share health information with primary care providers, specialists, social workers, and readmissions coordinators, they can streamline quality care, making the patient experience more pleasant and health outcomes more successful.

Implementing Care Management software will allow you to do the following:

  • Send patient information (charts, notes, test results, imaging, etc.) to all of the patient’s healthcare providers and specialists.
  • Collaborate with multiple specialists on an individualized care plan.
  • Educate patients about their diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • Help providers deliver appointment or treatment follow-up instructions.
  • Ensure that interdepartmental teams have the electronic health records they need to complete orders and deliver high-quality care.

21. Patient-centric care and wellness programs

Patient-centered care respects and integrates a patient’s values, preferences, and goals into clinical decision-making and outcome assessments. This partnership between caregiver and patient addresses the physical, mental, spiritual, and social determinants of a patient’s health to achieve better outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that successful patient-centered care entails:

  • Shared decision-making: giving patients, patients’ families, and caretakers a say in care planning after allowing time to research their treatment options
  • Customized care: treating each patient as a unique individual who deserves to choose from multiple diagnostic and treatment options
  • Information sharing: presenting each patient with all the observations, data, as well as condition and treatment research the care team has gathered

Achieving these objectives may require your team to shift its perspective on patients. Once your care team adopts a Care Management platform that eliminates the fatigue caused by disconnected patient engagement tools, they’ll have the time and energy to implement those new perspectives into their ideal patient-centered care delivery.

The Digital Patient Engagement Tool That Streamlines Care Delivery

Though this long list of digital patient engagement tools may seem overwhelming, your care team can implement many of them with just one move: by investing in a next-generation Care Management platform that makes their days less stressful and their patient communication much easier. In this post, you’ll discover Why Welkin’s Care Management Platform Is the Patient Engagement Solution You’ve Been Looking For.

Make your program more care-centric today.

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