Despite talks surrounding engagement and helping patients take ownership of their care, issues remain as to why they are simply uninterested.
“Anyone in the medical profession knows activated patients are always better, and engaged patients always do better,” said Gary Kolbeck, president of media and connectivity provider LodgeNet. “The difficult part has always been finding efficient and effective ways to engage patients when you’re strained for time.”
Kolbeck and Sachin Jain, senior medical advisor at LodgeNet, outline four pillars of an effective patient engagement strategy.
1. Defining the patient’s role. The goal here, said Jain, is to increase patient activation measures. “(It’s about) patients moving from a passive patient who doesn’t realize they have a role to play, to having them participate and understand how they can drive outcomes by being part of the care process,” he said.
2. Giving control to the patient. It’s key, said Jain, to allow patients in a healthcare setting to maintain a sense of control. “We can reduce the anxiety of the patient (by( explaining to them what to expect, what’s going to happen while they’re in the hospital setting and what to expect when they go home,” he said. Managing expectations, he continued, is not only effective in reducing anxiety, but also drives more positive outcomes. He added giving patients control could be as simple as providing photos and bios of the care community, as well as additional information and an understanding of what questions to ask of which people. “If you want someone to ask questions, they need to understand who the right people are to ask questions of,” he said.
3. Educate the patient. This includes giving patients information on their diagnosis, information on the hospital and what services are available to them to help drive positive outcomes, said Jain. “Drive the discussion with the care team members,” he added. “Spend a little more time on that and looking at how an interactive system helps with physician and patient interaction.” Kolbeck looked to a personal medical experience, where additional information would have been helpful. “I had broken my nose and (had to have) surgery to repair it,” he said. “I had no idea what the process would feel like and what recovery would feel like – I felt totally disempowered in the process, not because a physician didn’t want to (tell me) about the process and what it was going to involve, but because he didn’t have tools to do it in an efficient manner.”
4. Transitioning the patient. Issues tend to arise when a patient is transferred from one care setting to another, said Jain. “That’s where we lose a lot of patients,” he said. “So making sure we have a good discharge process. Patients are more educated and understand what is expected of them when they go home. We can reduce readmissions and hopefully reduce the cost of healthcare.” How a patient is able to remain in contact with the hospital, after he/she is moved or discharged, is also key, Jain added. Interactive tools can be helpful, “so we can push educational content that’s been assigned as part of discharge to their mobile phones, tablets, home PC as well,” he said. “So we can keep that contact as more of an accountable care organization.”