Strategies to Increase Patient Engagement and Retention

August 27, 2021

Healthcare organizations in public and private sectors are re-strategizing their patient engagement and retention methods

Since patients who are actively involved in their treatments have better outcomes and incur lower costs, now, more than ever, health organizations are looking to encourage, educate and involve patients in their healthcare.

What exactly is patient engagement?

Patient engagement combines the principles of patient activation with necessary interventions.

It promotes positive patient character and improves the patient’s ability and willingness to care for their health. Basically, patient engagement is a strategy that recognizes the differences, needs and values of each patient.

Improving patient engagement is as simple as incorporating technology into your pre-existing systems. Many patients have also shown better health care behavior in a digitalized hospital environment. In fact, a study by Accenture showed that 60% of the respondents prefer using technology to communicate with their health providers.

Merging technology with your patient engagement strategies is one way to keep them coming back to you, while also helping your patients to heal quickly! 

What does patient engagement do?

Patient engagement is the practice of encouraging patients to get involved in their health care. 

Not only will proper utilization of this strategy drive more significant health outcomes, but it’ll also drive excellent patient care and reduce the cost of treating people. 

Patient engagement and its strategies are not limited to the patients. It also encompasses their families, representatives, health team, organizational governance and policy-making.

For patient engagement strategies to work well, all stakeholders must communicate effectively and show commitment. Patients must actively collect facts about their health and bring them to their health providers, and ask questions concerning their health information and how it affects their lives. 

Doctors, nurses and health providers, as a whole, need to try to encourage healthy habits, answer questions expansively, and provide varied treatment options to patients. 

You can consider patient engagement as a form of partnership between patients and clinical professionals, where both groups interact extensively about health issues.

How do you identify engaged patients? 

The first step to identifying an engaged patient is to identify their patient activation level. To do this, health professionals use the Patient Activation Measure (PAM). 

PAM is a 100-point scale that determines the level of involvement patients have with their health treatment processes. PAM covers different patient characteristics including:

  • Their ability to self-manage illnesses
  • Their ability to maintain body function and reduce health decline
  • Their ability to make diagnostic choices
  • Their ability to collaborate with health providers
  • Their ability to select quality providers
  • Their ability to navigate the healthcare system

Primarily, the Patient Activation Measure test assesses whether:

  • The patient believes they are in charge of her health
  • The patient knows what the prescribed treatment does
  • The patient understands the cause and nature of their condition
  • The patient can find a solution to the problem

After this test, clinicians can make informed decisions about their patients and the engagement strategies to use. For less activated patients, health professionals may wish to use simple engagement strategies to influence a successful treatment, which will help them to activate further.

Top patient engagement strategies 

Provide relevant and targeted health information

Whether through static or digital signage, leaflets, flyers, website or portal, ensuring that your patients have access to up-to-date, relevant health information can be a great way to encourage patient engagement. 

Patient activation — a crucial subset of patient engagement — measures a person’s understanding, competence and willingness to involve themselves in medical treatments. Patient activation emphasizes the desire and capability of patients to take active steps concerning their health. 

Developing robust patient education tools can be one way of improving measures of patient activation and ultimately patient engagement. 

Encourage patient-clinician communication 

Early results of the research conducted on patient engagement — specifically patient-clinician communication — suggest that it’s a positive strategy for improving patient health outcomes.  

In one study, respondents were divided into two groups.

The first group received the usual form of medical support and treatment. Their interaction with the health coaches was minimal and reduced to the corners of the doctors’ office. 

However, the other group received more comprehensive treatment. They frequently communicated with their health providers via telephone, email and social media. 

The result? Those who received enhanced medical support were better health-wise than their counterparts. Not only that, but they healed faster when compared to their peers who received the ‘usual' mode of treatment. They experienced the following benefits:

  • Reduced medical costs by 5.3%
  • Lower rate in-patient admissions by 12.5%
  • Lower rate of ER visits by 2.6%
  • Lower rate of general surgeries by 9.9%
  • Lower rate of heart surgeries by 10.9%

Enabling patient-clinician communication outside of the clinic, whether that’s online, over the phone, or on social media, can be a great way to increase patient engagement and ultimately drive better health outcomes. 

Provide access to an online portal for patient information 

One way to hit both of the previous two points — education and communication — is through the creation of an online medical portal which can provide patients with key health-related information, allow them to provide feedback or make suggestions for improvements, and provide a space for communication between patients and clinicians. 

Keep patients involved in the decision-making process 

To keep patients really engaged in the process, health professionals may want to focus on the patient instead of the metrics of the patient. While the data provides the patient’s feedback, it can ‘robotify’ the patient’s voice. 

By meeting with patients and speaking to them directly, health professionals can collect extensive data and keep the patient engaged in the decision-making process.

Offer patients outside support

Support groups are an intense method of involving patients in the medical process.  

While not every patient may want to participate in a support group, these can be a useful tool. Whether in the form of social media hangouts or weekly meetings where patients can share their problems with each other and with a certified professional, support groups can be a great way to increase patient engagement. 

Educating and informing patients in your clinic through digital signage

It is difficult for patients to engage extensively in health management if they are not familiar with their conditions and options. However, as discussed above, with the provision of relevant information around conditions, treatments and health advice, patients can show positive patient activation levels. 

Many online users want to find information concerning health-related issues. If you are looking to invite more traffic to your site, posting health videos, wellness tips, or blogs can be a great step to increase patient engagement and cultivate informed decision-making. 

However, another key way to provide this information is to do so in your waiting room. 

With many providers already having waiting rooms TVs or devices, it can be an easy switch to begin using these to provide health-related information, to allow check-ins to appointments, or even to provide feedback on a medical visit. 

While attending an appointment, a patient is likely already in the right mindset to learn about their medical condition or to consider making positive changes to improve their health. Waiting room digital signage can be a great way to maximize this. 

Ideally, the language used should be simple, clear, and informative, in order to facilitate patient understanding and engagement. 

Use digital signage to optimize patient engagement

In addition to waiting room TVs, healthcare digital signage in general can help hospitals and health centers create an effective and efficient means of communication with patients. 

It’s a technology that’s relevant, immediate, and specific to patients. It educates and informs the patient on what they need and where they need it. With many of us increasingly used to using digital devices in our everyday lives, it also reaches patients where they’re at. 

Digital signage allows the patient to easily check-in and submit a profile while doctors get through this information quickly. It can enable the patients to maneuver the entire process comfortably while providing them with relevant information about their conditions, treatment and options — ultimately empowering the patient and improving patient engagement. 

Take your patient engagement to the next level with UPshow

To learn more about the digital signage options that UPshow provides through their unique engagement platform — and how it can take your patient engagement to the next level — check out UPshow today.

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