One of the biggest challenges physicians and healthcare providers face is making sure that their patients adhere to prescribed treatment plans. Patients who do not stick to their treatment plans will obviously not have desirable outcomes most of the time, which means more visits to their treatment providers.
This is where patient engagement comes in, which is the practice of encouraging patients to take a more active role in their health. And it’s not a one-way street either – healthcare providers should develop plans that they know patients will have no troubles adhering to.
When patients start to take their health seriously, it results in better clinical and financial results. In this article we’ll be exploring ways that doctors and other healthcare providers can explore to improve their patient engagement strategies.
Note: If you’re not seeing enough patients to begin with, read our SEO for Doctors article to learn how to attract more patients to your healthcare practice.
What is Patient Engagement – Patient Engagement Definition
Patient engagement is a strategy that involves doctors and healthcare providers encouraging patients to get more involved in their own care. The focus of patient engagement is to drive better health outcomes, deeper relationship between patients and doctors, and lower costs.
Patients are better equipped with information now more than ever, and a patient engagement strategy can leverage that to encourage positive behaviours. Patients who are more engaged in their health tend to be healthier, and patient engagement is for those who aren’t as engaged.
Essential Patient Engagement Solutions and Strategies
Simple Health Information
Patients should be able to understand their health matters without getting confused with all the jargon and acronyms that are frequently thrown around in the world of healthcare.
Doctors might find it easier to use complicated terms – antihistamine instead of anti-allergy, for example – but patients won’t have a clue what they’re talking about.
Doctors should aim to simplify steps of a plan or what it includes to their patients. A general rule of thumb would be to think, “would a 6th-grader understand this?”. Doctors should begin explanations from this level, and step it up if they think the patient is easily able to comprehend what they’re saying.
All written or visual material supplied to patients should be kept very simple, with clear and concise instructions. Even well-educated individuals may have a limited understanding of the complex world of healthcare.
Keeping materials simple and easy enough for a 6th-grader to understand is a great first step to enhance patient engagement, and to ensure patients feel more involved in the process. Using complicated terms and jargon only serves to alienate your patients.
Dr. David Yoder from David Yoder Wellness says that people tend to have shorter attention spans these days, owing to social media, smartphones and so on. He suggests that doctors should connect with patients on an emotional level, and make patients realize that self-care is their best investment.
Get More Detailed With Treatment Plans
It’s very easy to tell patients to ‘stop smoking’, without providing the details this mighty endeavor involves. How should patient cope with withdrawal? Should the patient be around friends who smoke?
Get specific about the details, as something as apparently simple as ‘stop smoking’ is a huge undertaking and doctors must respect that by giving detailed instructions on how to do so.
Make Patients More Involved in Self-Care By Setting Their Own Goals
Patients these days take much more interest in their own health, as most people tend to ‘self diagnose’ themselves through online research. Some doctors might see this as an annoyance if the self-diagnosis is off the mark, but it does indicate interest in self-care on part of the patients.
Doctors should thus learn how to leverage this, and should encourage patients to play an active role in their wellness. This also involves allowing them to set their own goals. For someone who’s overweight, the doctor may recommend them to set a weight-loss goal. The patient will be more likely to follow the plan if they know they’re working towards their own goal.
The more specific and more personal the goals are, the more likely the patient will be able to follow through on the treatment plan.
Make Sure You Understand the Patient
Some patients might follow steps that are different to what their doctor recommended because the information simply got lost in translation. For example, a doctor might recommend the patient to ‘eat healthy’, which of course is open to interpretation.
So while the doctor means a diet of fruit and vegetables, the patient might go for meat and eggs, simply because that’s what ‘eat healthy’ means to them.
Doctors should therefore let go of all assumptions, and make sure their recommendations are understood correctly by the patient. The responsibility here lies on the doctor, and open communication is key.
To put it shortly, doctors should not assume anything regarding the patient’s understanding or knowledge.
Setup Patient Portals
Patient engagement can be enhanced through use of technology and software. Patient portals are an excellent example of this, and doctors can have these custom-developed according to their requirements.
Patient portals can allow patients and doctors to share updates regarding prescription refills, goals, action items, appointment reminders and other general information.
Dr. David Yoder uses an online scheduling system called MindBody to make it easier for patients to book appointments and even make payments. This way, his staff can focus on other activities and patients can make appointments easily.
Hold Patients Accountable
Allowing patients to set their own health goals allows doctors to hold them accountable later on. Helping patients set their own goals and track progress can be a huge motivator and valuable in improving patient engagement.
Holding them accountable also shows empathy for their health from the doctor, which promotes a deeper relationship and that’s one of the facets of patient engagement as well.
Why Patient Engagement Is Essential Today
People are becoming more involved in their options when it comes to healthcare these days. With information being readily available, people treat healthcare as a serious purchase decision like a car or investing for retirement.
Healthcare providers that actively engage them and build a relationship that leads to better health outcomes will naturally have an edge over traditional providers where the physician dictates everything.
Patient Engagement Ensures That Plans Work
Having cutting edge treatments and plans is great, however they can only work if patients are actually willing to follow them.
By improving patient engagement, doctors increase the success rate of their treatments, while also making lives of their patients richer and healthier.
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