A Physician's Guide To Improving Patient Engagement
It is no secret that physicians are under immense pressure to see more patients in less time. The average primary care physician spends just 18 minutes with each patient, which leaves little time for anything beyond the essentials of taking a medical history and performing a physical exam.
What's more, the traditional model of medicine—in which the physician is the gatekeeper of all information and decision-making—is increasingly being challenged by patients who are more informed and engaged in their care. In this new reality, physicians must find ways to work with patients as partners in their care.
The patient engagement process involves patients working with their healthcare providers to make decisions about their care, set goals, and develop action plans. You need to understand and continuously improve patient engagement to provide the best possible care for patients. This guide provides an overview of what patient engagement is, what benefits it can bring, and how to improve it.
What Is Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement is a term used to describe the level of involvement and participation that patients have in their healthcare. This includes everything from keeping track of their medical records to their overall satisfaction with their care experience.
Physicians play a crucial role in promoting patient engagement, as they are often the first point of contact for patients and are in a position to provide information, answer questions, and help patients navigate the healthcare system.
Factors That Contribute To Successful Patient Engagement
The key to successfully engaging patients is understanding what motivates them. Here are some of the most important factors in successful patient engagement:
Communication is key to successful patient engagement. Patients need to feel like they can communicate openly with their providers about their health concerns. Providers should take the time to listen to their patients and answer any questions they may have.
Trust is also important in the relationship between a doctor and a patient. Patients need to believe that their providers are looking out for their best interests. Patients are more likely to be involved in their care if they feel like they can trust their providers.
- Shared Decision-Making
Patients and providers working together to make decisions about care is another important factor in successful patient engagement. Patients should feel like they have a say in the decisions about their care. Shared decision-making can help ensure that patients get the care they want and need.
How To Improve Patient Engagement
The good news is that there are many things you can do to improve patient engagement. Here are a few tips:
Step One: Involve Patients In Decision-Making
Involvement in decision-making is another key component of patient engagement. Patients want to be involved in their care. When making treatment recommendations, explain the risks and benefits of each option in plain language. Encourage patients to express their preferences. You can also involve patients in decision-making by providing information about treatment options, soliciting input about preferences, and involving patients in goal-setting.
Step Two: Improve Access To Information
One way to improve patient engagement is to improve access to information. Patients should access information about their health condition, treatment options, and available resources. These resources are provided in a format that is easy to understand and should be tailored to the individual patient's needs. Educating your patients about their health can be done through written materials, such as pamphlets and handouts, or verbal communication.
Step Three: Encourage Patients To Take An Active Role In Their Health.
Another way to improve patient engagement is by encouraging patients to be involved in their care. Patients should be involved in making decisions about their care, such as what treatment to receive and how to manage their condition. They can also be involved in their health maintenance, such as taking medications as prescribed and making healthy lifestyle choices.
Step Four: Enhance Communication
Enhancing communication between patients and doctors is another way to increase patient participation. This means taking the time to explain things in a way your patients will understand. Provide information to patients tailored to the individual patient's needs. It also means being open and honest with your patients about their health. Patients should also feel they can openly communicate with you about their health condition, treatment, and concerns.
Step Five: Improve Coordination Of Care
Another way to improve patient engagement is to improve the coordination of care. When patients receive care from multiple providers, communication between the providers is essential. This communication can help to ensure that patients receive the most appropriate care and that their care is coordinated.
Step Six: Provide Support
Another way to improve patient engagement is to provide support to patients. This support can include providing informational resources and emotional support. When patients feel supported, they are more likely to be involved in their care and make healthy choices.
Making time for your patients also shows support. This means scheduling longer appointments and making yourself available for same- or next-day appointments when possible. It also means being present with your patients when you are with them by putting away your phone, making eye contact, and listening to what your patients say. You can also try being available for phone calls and emails.
Step Seven: Be Responsive To Patients' Needs
Patients appreciate when you are responsive to their needs. This means promptly returning phone calls and emails and being available for appointments when patients need them.
Step Eight: Seek Feedback From Patients
Patient feedback is a great way to gauge how well you are doing in patient engagement. This feedback is best solicited through surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one conversations.
Step Nine: Follow Up With Patients
Following up with patients after their appointments is a great way to improve patient engagement. Sending a handwritten note, making a phone call, or sending an email ensures you stay updated on the patient's condition.
Why Is Patient Engagement Important?
Patient engagement offers many benefits to you and your healthcare organization. Here are some of the main ones:
- Improved Health Outcomes
Patients more engaged in their healthcare tend to have better health outcomes. For example, patients actively involved in their care have improved blood sugar control, lower hospitalization rates, and improved survival rates. This is because these patients are more likely to adhere to their treatment plan and to make healthy lifestyle choices.
- Reduced Healthcare Costs
Patient engagement can also help to reduce healthcare costs. For instance, patients involved in making decisions about their care are less likely to receive unnecessary tests and procedures. In addition, patients with a good understanding of their health and managing their condition are less likely to require expensive emergency care or hospitalization.
- Improved Quality Of Care
Patient engagement can also improve the quality of care. When patients are involved in their care, they are more likely to be satisfied with their care and to provide feedback to physicians about their care experience. This feedback can help to identify areas where care needs to be improved.
- Enhanced Communication
Patient engagement can also enhance communication between patients and physicians. Patients involved in their care are more likely to ask questions and provide information about their symptoms and preferences. This communication can help to ensure that patients receive the most appropriate care.
- Increased Satisfaction
Patient engagement can also lead to customer loyalty due to increased satisfaction with the care experience. Patients are more likely to report feeling satisfied with their care and that their needs are being addressed when actively participating in their treatment.
The Challenges In Patient Engagement
Despite patient engagement's many benefits, some challenges need to be considered.
- Time And Resources
One of the challenges of patient engagement is that it requires time and resources. To effectively engage with patients, you need to be able to dedicate time to developing relationships and providing support. In addition, patient engagement initiatives often require financial resources to be successful.
- Access To Care
Some patients may not have access to care. This can be due to various factors, such as a lack of insurance, transportation, or child care. Patients who do not have access to care may be less likely to be engaged in their care.
- Literacy And Language Barriers
Another challenge of patient engagement is that literacy, cultural and language barriers can prevent some patients from engaging in their care effectively. This is particularly important for patients who do not speak English as their first language.
- Chronic Disease
Chronic disease can make it difficult for patients to be engaged in their care. This is because chronic diseases often require patients to make significant lifestyle changes, which can be difficult. In addition, patients with chronic diseases often have a lot of information to process, which can be overwhelming.
- Mistrust Of The Healthcare System
Some patients may mistrust the healthcare system. This mistrust can be due to various factors, such as a bad experience with the healthcare system, a lack of understanding, or a belief that the healthcare system is not designed to meet their needs. When patients mistrust the healthcare system, they may be less likely to be engaged in their care.
Patient engagement is an important aspect of care that has been shown to improve health outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, and improve the quality of care. Despite the many benefits of patient engagement, you should also be aware of some minor challenges. By taking the time to communicate openly with patients and involving them in decisions about their care, you can help to ensure that patients are engaged in their care. By following this guide to connect with patients and involve them in their care, you can make a lasting difference in your patient's health.