Medical professionals have long recognized patient engagement as an essential factor in treating patients. The arrival of disruptive technologies, however, made it more attractive for patients to be more involved. A recent study shows that when patients are given a say in their treatment regimen, they understand their condition better and thus are more committed to their medical care and maintenance program. This arrangement results in better patient engagement and savings in medical costs. (1)  

In healthcare, patient engagement refers to the active involvement of patients in collecting information and decision-making when it comes to their illness, including treatment options. It’s a partnership among healthcare professionals, patients, families, and representatives. This partnership can also include institutional governance and policy-making.      

Role of tech for a better patient engagement

Today’s available technology transforms every aspect of healthcare at a dizzying pace. Tech helps patients be more connected to healthcare providers—it allows them to communicate more. With better communication, patients are more likely to follow their provider’s advice and be more responsible for their health. Follow-up visits have also increased. (2)

As smartphone ownership increases exponentially, more and more patients rely on information they can find online. Healthcare data accessed through patient portals and social media have also grown. The number of people who track their health using various technologies increases, judging by the number of software apps for health and nutrition. This surge makes it highly worthwhile to develop a custom healthcare web application. (3)

Using tech to improve patient engagement

With people embracing technology like a duck takes to water, showing patients how to use tech for improved engagement is a cinch. Below are a few ways to use tech for better patient engagement:

1. Encourage patients to use mobile technology before and after their appointment

With 85% of Americans owning a smartphone, your patients most likely have one. Getting them engaged beforehand wouldn’t be difficult. You can provide access to online check-in and the means to sign up for an online portal. An online portal lets your patients check their lab results without visiting the clinic. (4)

Connecting through digital means is much easier and is the preferred communication method of most people. Offer a direct digital communication method between healthcare providers and patients, like a two-way email through the patient portal system. This way, you’ll foster relationships and promote interaction between the patient and medical professional. 

A patient portal can also allow patients to read their doctor’s notes, appointment schedules, and test results. They can also pay their bills through the portal. If they’re worried about privacy, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliance ensures that patient data is safe. The providers and their staff, however, can still notify them of general information, such as scheduled visits or immunization recommendations.

2. Recommend use of health-tracking devices for patients 

EMR (electronic medical record) integration is still limited today, but that will soon change. For example, patient-worn devices that monitor heart rate for a certain period will, in the future, be as common as rain. Devices like these will make it possible for medical professionals to anticipate issues and make it easier to issue an accurate diagnosis. (5) 

Seeing these devices help the medical professional do their job more effectively will increase the patient’s trust. Trust will make them communicate better and be more involved and committed to the treatment.

3. Include the patient when drawing up a plan for the EMR during the visit

Patients and medical professionals don’t usually connect when drawing up and reviewing a treatment plan using EMR. While logging details, make sure you’re engaging with the patient. You can do this by holding your body and face toward the patient as you speak. Ensure you include the patient when using a notebook or tablet and not just dictating to the patient what they should and should not do.

Explaining what you’re logging in and documenting will go a long way towards making them feel a part of the process. You can also show and review their medical history on the device itself. This approach will make the patient more involved and feel part of the whole process. Making an effort to involve the patient using technology is a big step towards making healthcare more patient-centered.    

4. Use telemedicine as an option for patients

Due to the recent health crisis, telemedicine has become a necessity. This method is especially beneficial for elderly patients, patients in far-flung areas, and patients with mobility impairment. Technologies like online meetings and video chat can always make patients and healthcare providers more engaged than simple audio calls. 

Before offering this option, however, setting up and defining eligibility criteria is vital. These criteria need not be rigid; they can be refined from time to time, as required. After all, telemedicine isn’t for everybody. 

Avoid wasting resources by tailoring the response to the needs of the patients. These needs should be based on caregiver support, social determinants, home environment, physical and cognitive abilities, and a patient’s readiness to participate consistently and adequately.        

Conclusion

Patient engagement is an essential aspect of healthcare. Physicians and other health professionals should educate patients about their conditions, motivate involvement, and encourage healthy habits. With the advancement of tech, prompting patients to improve patient engagement can be easy. Today’s tech can help boost patient interest, and that’s why it’s vital to know how to use tech to foster better patient engagement. 

References

1. “Enhanced Support For Shared Decision Making Reduced Costs Of Care For Patients With Preference-Sensitive Conditions”, Source: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0941

2. “Are consumers already living the future of health? Key trends in agency, virtual health, remote monitoring, and data-sharing”, Source: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/health-care/consumer-health-trends.html

3. “Digital health apps balloon to more than 350,000 available on the market, according to IQVIA report” Source: https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/digital-health-apps-balloon-more-350000-available-market-according-iqvia-report

4. “Mobile Fact Sheet”, Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/

5. “Latest trends in medical monitoring devices and wearable health technology’’, Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/wearable-technology-healthcare-medical-devices

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