Patient engagement is crucial for the long-term success of a healthcare practice. Patients with higher levels of engagement are more likely to stay loyal to your practice and actually experience better outcomes and healthier lives. But, getting patients to engage with your practice can be challenging, and most patients aren’t actively engaged.
Fortunately, there are some strategies proven to increase patient engagement. By prioritizing the patient experience and improving access to healthcare, practices can increase engagement in their current patients and attract new ones.
1. Offer Virtual Healthcare Visits
The most basic level of patient engagement is participation. For patients to be actively engaged in a practice, they need to be interacting with their doctors. The easiest way to do this is by making it easier for patients to access your practice.
Many patients postpone or push off their doctor’s appointments because they don’t deem them necessary or find them too inconvenient. Patients are people too, and they have busy lives, making regular checkups a hassle. For patients with 9-5 jobs, children, or even living in rural areas, getting to the doctor is far from convenient, especially for an “unnecessary” checkup.
Offering virtual healthcare visits can drastically improve patient engagement by making it easier for patients to interact with their doctors. Telehealth platforms enable virtual communication and collaboration between patients and providers, allowing them to connect remotely.
Instead of commuting to the doctor, sitting in the waiting room, and enduring an hour-long checkup (all of which can take several hours), patients can log in to a virtual meeting from their home. The whole visit can be completed in under an hour, allowing patients to get the care they need without sacrificing significant amounts of time.
Through telehealth, patients can engage with their providers at any time and from any location. As patients will not have to take off work or endure a lengthy commute, they will be much more likely to schedule and attend their doctor’s appointments. When practices increase the convenience and ease of their offerings, they make it easier for patients to engage, making it more likely that they will. Once patients begin engaging in this way, it opens the door for even more significant engagement.
2. Allow Access to Medical Records
Just as a telehealth platform can offer virtual visits between patients and providers, it allows patients access to their medical records. Patients can log in to their patient portal and view their electronic health records (EHRs), including their medical history, images, and test results. Nearly half of patients claimed that they would switch providers if another doctor offered a secure patient communications portal.
With telehealth, patients can easily upload, access, and share their personal records, making it easy to stay informed on their health. Providing patients with access to their health records will make them more inclined to access the telehealth platform and engage with your practice about their health.
3. Make Your Practice Mobile-First
Speaking of offering virtual access to healthcare, practices can boost patient engagement by providing mobile healthcare. Many practices make the mistake of assuming that their patients aren’t online or don’t care to be. The reality is that, no matter their age, patients are cellphone-savvy and want access to their healthcare data online - and better yet, on their phones.
While a telehealth platform is one step in the right direction, making your practice mobile-first takes convenience to another level. Patients want convenient and remote access to their healthcare platform, so practices must ensure that their website and portals are suitable for any screen.
While not every healthcare interaction will be made over the phone, occasional instances such as refilling prescriptions or checking test results should be available on the go. In doing so, patients can access your practice at any time, increasing their engagement.
4. Engage Patients in Shared Decision Making
When patients have access to their medical records, it allows them to engage in a shared decision-making process. While physicians should have the final say in diagnosis or treatment, patients like to feel included in their care plan, and telehealth makes them feel informed and in the loop.
Doctors can also help patients find second opinions through the telehealth platform, which offers a global network of physicians. Merely having the option and resources to obtain a second opinion can vastly improve a patient’s experience and engagement, as they feel heard and included in their care.
Telehealth platforms can also be integrated with wearable technology, such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, and even medical devices like heart monitors and insulin pumps. In doing so, patients and providers can share health data without even communicating, yet they are still collaborating to improve the patient’s health.
Small measures such as this improve not only engagement but also the patient’s health altogether. When patients are included in the decision-making process, they are more motivated to participate and follow their treatment plan. A study with Mayo Clinic showed that practices engaged in shared decision-making saw 19% fewer hospital admissions with their patients.
By simply providing patients access to their medical records and including them in the discussion about their care, practices can significantly improve patient outcomes - which is a win for patients and providers.
5. Deliver Continuous Care
A significant component of quality patient care - and engagement - is consistency. Providers should strive for ongoing patient engagement with their practice, not just a one-time engagement. For patients to offer ongoing engagement, providers need to deliver continuous care, and telehealth makes that easier.
Telehealth makes it more convenient to perform follow-up appointments and deliver regular communication. When patients engage in follow-ups more often, they can form a relationship with their provider. If patients are to improve engagement with their doctors, they need to feel like they know and trust them, which can only be done with continuous care.
As traditional follow-ups can be tedious to perform regularly when in-person, patients will be far more likely to participate in regular meetings when it is remote. As patients can receive care from any time, at any location, it makes it easier for them to receive consistent care and engage more often.
The more consistently that patients receive care, the better that practices can improve patient experience, satisfaction, engagement, and even outcomes.
Telehealth Can Boost Patient Engagement
Many healthcare practices believe that patient engagement is low because patients don’t want to be engaged. The reality is that patients want to be involved with their medical care, but they want it to be convenient. With traditional healthcare, for patients to be engaged, they must be physically present in their doctor’s office. Not only is this inconvenient, but it isn’t feasible for consistent engagement, as most patients only see their doctor for annual physicals or routine checkups.
But, with telehealth, patient engagement is made easy. Telehealth allows patients to engage with their providers whenever and wherever they want. Patients can access medical records, communicate directly with doctors, and contribute more meaningfully to their care.
As telehealth makes engaging more convenient, patients are more inclined to do so on a regular basis. For healthcare practices looking to boost patient engagement, the answer is simple: bring healthcare directly to your patients through telehealth.