Patient Engagement: The Most Important Prescription of All

Everyone’s talking about patient engagement these days.   Social media is buzzing with patient engagement hash tags and some are even proclaiming it as the “blockbuster drug of the century,” citing its positive effect on patient outcomes.

It’s important for physicians to remember that they, as well as the patients, benefit from better engagement. To determine the tactics and benefits of patient engagement for physician practices, medical software research and reviews website Software Advice recently spoke with several experts in the field on the matter.

Dr. Judith Hibbard, Dr. Danny Sands, and Dr. Leslie Kernisan, stated that patient engagement is about transforming the patients’ roles in their own health. Engagement requires effort from both parties with the goal of teaching patients to actively think about and act on behalf of their own health. The many activities doctors undertake to get their patients more engaged focus on increasing the patient’s knowledge of their health care issues and gives them the tools they need to better engage with their physician.

Dr. Sands recommends that physicians encourage patients to use the Internet to research their health conditions. The doctor’s acknowledgement that he or she doesn’t need to be the only information source available to a patient empowers patients to tap into a wealth of information that they can’t get from a 15-20 minute office visit. To ensure patients are getting information from reputable sources, doctors should recommend their favorite sites when guiding patients into the land of online research.

It is also important for doctors to make interacting with their practices less painful. Dr. Kernisan talks about the “friction” many patients feel when interacting with their doctor’s office to schedule, re-schedule or cancel appointments, or get simple questions answered outside of a visit. Patient portals, like Hello Health’s PortalConnect, greatly help reduce this friction and provide patients with an easy and usually instant way to communicate with their physician and his staff.

So what benefits do physicians experience by getting their patients more engaged? There are three key benefits:

  1.  The practice could make more money. Patient engagement has been shown to improve health outcomes, so if a practice’s payment model is tied to outcomes (as so many increasingly are), patient engagement can result in direct cost savings. Additionally, engaged patients are less likely to come in repeatedly for the same low-intensity issues. That means office time can be devoted to more complex cases, which means doctors may find themselves billing at a higher level.
  2. Patient satisfaction increases. When patients feel that doctors see them as partners in their care, they feel valued. When they grow in their knowledge, they feel empowered. Tools like PortalConnect or other patient portals make it easier for patients to communicate with their doctors, view important health information, and manage appointments.  The ability to schedule an appointment, view lab results, or inquire about an unusual symptom at the touch of a button, simplifies patients’ health management and boosts satisfaction.  Satisfied patients tend to be more loyal. They also tend to refer friends and colleagues. That means patient engagement can improve patient retention and attract new patients.
  3. Physician job satisfaction increases. This was the point most emphasized by Dr. Hibbard, Dr. Sands, and Dr. Kernisan. Engaging your patients and making them partners in their own care increases the likelihood that they will follow through on treatment plans. That means physicians don’t feel that they’re spinning their wheels.  Instead, they have the rewarding interaction of a patient who is attentively listening, asking their own questions, helping make treatment decisions, and acting on the treatment decisions made.

So often the focus in healthcare is taking care of the patient. Physicians need to make sure their needs are being met too.  Proper engagement is that perfect place where both doctor and patient can meet in the middle to secure a confident bond and travel a smooth journey through the valley of healthcare.

This post was inspired by an article originally published by Melissa McCormack, Managing Editor at Software Advice. The full article may be viewed here: Patient Engagement: What’s In It For Your Private Practice?

About the Author
Nat Findlay

Nat Findlay is the Founder and CEO of Hello Health, the EHR that offers tools to promote profitability for today’s independent medical practice.