Patient engagement is a key area of concern for any healthcare practice. It benefits not only patient outcomes but also your bottom line. That’s why we’ll cover all you need to know about the top three patient engagement strategies for optimizing your business’s patient engagement, including:
- Improving your visibility and monitoring of patient engagement and relationships
- Expanding the scope of communication to better inform and connect with patients
- Optimizing relationships with vendors or payors to share engagement responsibilities
Soon, you’ll be well equipped with the strategies and resources to maximize the value of your patient relationships.
But first, let’s take a look at what patient engagement is.
Patient Engagement 101: Objectives and Obstacles to Navigate
Patient engagement can be seen as a holistic approach to optimizing communications between healthcare professionals and patients to achieve patient “activation.” This is a state wherein patients facilitate the job of providers and work to improve their own outcomes by active participation in the treatment process.
This also benefits providers with greater efficiency and, in turn, profits.
However, this is easier said than done.
There are hurdles to overcome from both the patient and provider sides. Patients may be reluctant to share or cooperate with providers, or they may be willing to, but face cultural or patient education barriers that prevent them from doing so. Providers may also lack the proper patient care training or resources to effectively reach their patients.
The strategies below can help solve these problems and strengthen any patient engagement program—even effective ones.
Strategy #1: Improve Visibility of Patient-Provider Relationships
The first strategy for optimizing overall patient engagement is to improve your understanding of current patient relationship efforts being made by both parties to communicate.
If you’re not tracking and analyzing all outreach and communications with patients, you’ll need to start immediately. Track and flag positive and negative elements of ongoing communication.
For example, you should monitor for indicators of successful patient engagement, such as patients independently reaching out and asking questions about their care. You should also be on the lookout for signs of poor engagement, such as lapses in response times or failure to respond at all to multiple outreach attempts.
These may be indicators that a special approach is needed—see #2 below.
How to Monitor for and Respond to Patient Engagement Issues
Increasing visibility of patient engagement starts with analyzing all current patient relationships and assigning codes—ideally numerical values—that correspond to their relative effectiveness. Each company should grade its relationships in a unique way according to its various nuances, but one baseline metric to base your analysis on is the Patient Activation Measure (PAM).1
The questions in the PAM survey exist to measure patient activation across four basic levels:
- Level 1 – Complete disengagement from their health and full dependence on doctors
- Level 2 – Awareness of their own capability to help but uninformed about how or why
- Level 3 – Moderate involvement in own health outcomes and a will to improve them
- Level 4 – Strong involvement and sense of collaboration with respect to treatment
If you find that your patients tend to fall into Levels 1 or 2 (or your own equivalent thereof), it’s time to seriously consider an optimization strategy to help get them more engaged or activated.
Strategy #2: Expand the Scope of Communication with Patients
The most critical, direct strategy for improving your patient engagement and achieving level-4 activation across all patients involves making substantive changes to communication with them.
If your initial survey and intelligence gathering indicate that your patients feel uninformed, you’ll need to increase the overall amount of communication. But in doing so, you’ll also need to strike a balance and avoid overwhelming them with too much outreach. Most patients value options, so you’ll want to diversify your communications to include a variety of synchronous and asynchronous ways to get in touch. This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whatever form your communications take, they should be deeply personalized. And patients should feel they have a direct say in decisions to the extent possible.
Let’s take a look at how.
Best Practice: Personalize Patient Communication at all Points of Contact
When patients communicate with any member of your staff, they should be treated with the level of respect that a person expects when communicating with a family member or friend.
Patients may carry baggage with them from suboptimal relationships they’ve had with prior doctors and healthcare facilities. You need to do whatever you can to dispel fears or insecurities patients may have from past medical trauma and meet them where they are. That will certainly include patience and a commitment to hearing, noting, and performing your understanding of their situation. Equip staff with information about the patient prior to any outreach attempt.
Importantly, this is not limited to internal staff. As we’ll discuss in more detail below (see #3), you’ll also want to personalize patients’ engagements with all third parties, such as payors.
Best Practice: Involve Your Patients in Active Collaboration with Providers
For optimal engagement, it’ll never be enough to just meet patients where they’re at—that’s simply the first step. Ultimately, you’ll also want to get patients actively involved in as many decisions as possible.
Key decisions to involve them in include, but are not limited to:
- Scheduling in the short and long terms and extended timelines for care or outcomes
- Diagnoses, in as much as their self-reporting of symptoms, impacts your findings
- Options between treatments, including both high- and low-risk (and stakes) services
Even in situations where patients can’t be given much control over decision-making processes, you should take measures to make them feel agency. Transparency about minutiae of care procedures goes a long way, as do subtle nods to their own roles and responsibilities.
Helping patients see the control they’re taking helps them want to take more.
Strategy #3: Optimize Relationships with payors and Contractors
The third and final strategy for improving patient engagement has less to do with relationships between your company and its patients than with your company and other third parties that come into contact with patients. It’s important to account for the communicative practices of third pirates, which clients may think of as one and the same or an extension of your business.
Some may assume that payor and vendor management is all about negotiating higher rates on payor contracts. While that is a key element of managed care consultant contracting , it’s far from the only consideration. There are two other factors that can make a difference in patient relationships.
Signing Better Contracts, Including Patient Engagement Responsibilities
Just as you need to ensure personalization and agency-boosting communication skills across your whole staff, you should also seek to develop them across your payors and vendors. One way to achieve this is through negotiation of contract terms in exchange for their compensation.
A strong contract management program can optimize four elements for this purpose:
- Onboarding – Implementing a unified engagement strategy across your extended team
- Coordination – Ensuring continuous implementation of said strategy over the long term
- Monitoring – Progress reports to increase and act upon third-party engagement visibility
- Growth – Expansion of your internal and external teams to meet patients’ biggest needs
The last point is closely related to the final consideration toward a third-party focused approach.
Bonus Strategy: Expand Your Team, with an Eye for Patient Engagement Specialists
Ensuring accountability for engagement across all your staff and contractors is as much about educating current personnel as it is about recruiting and retaining more. Expanding your team might not seem like a strong way to keep clients engaged, but it can actually be one of the best.
If the strategies above aren’t quite working for your company, an alternative approach involves outsourcing the concern to a specialist or team whose sole focus is patient engagement. In close collaboration with your staff, they’ll craft and implement an engagement strategy that minimizes the resources you need to expend.
With the help of a contracting solution like PayrHealth, we’ll help engage your patients and grow your business.
- Insignia Health. Patient Activation Measure. https://www.insigniahealth.com/products/pam-survey
- CipherHealth. Patient Engagement & The Patient Experience: Understanding How One Drives the Other. https://cipherhealth.com/blog/patient-engagement-the-patient-experience-understanding-how-one-drives-the-other/
- Health Affairs. Patient Engagement. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20130214.898775
- Patient Engagement Hit. Patient Engagement Strategies for Improving Patient Activation. https://patientengagementhit.com/features/patient-engagement-strategies-for-improving-patient-activation