It’s no secret that good communication is the key to patient engagement. Physician-to-patient communication is a powerful tool in a health care practice. For example, a review conducted by Oxford’s Department of Primary Health Care of smoking cessation studies from 1972 to 2007 showed that even a brief interaction with a physician suggesting a patient quit smoking increased the likelihood that the patient would indeed quit by about 30 percent.
With chronic conditions now accounting for about 75 percent of healthcare costs, the need for even greater communication between doctors and patients is even more profound. Busy lives of both patients and physicians, however, makes communication difficult. Doctors are pressed for time in busy practices, while patients want convenience and easy access to the information that is critical for them to have.
Automation and Patient Engagement:
In this new era of automation and digital information, the idea of patient engagement may seem almost contradictory. Engagement is all about connecting and building a relationship with patients. Using technology for such a personal experience seems almost antithetical. But with all this new technology, engagement has become even more important. With so much information available through so many sources, patients are relying on their healthcare providers to give them timely, accurate, and authoritative information about their health. These days, there are more options than face-to-face meetings to present this information.
Patient Engagement via Email:
For information of a general nature, such as diet and exercise or other generic health information, email is a quick and efficient method for communicating. Use caution here, as email is not considered a HIPAA-secure method for presenting protected information, such as test results or procedure recommendations.
Patient Engagement via Patient Portal:
Patient portals allow you to communicate sensitive information through a HIPAA-compliant source. Patients can communicate quickly and safely with your office, and you can send confidential information with the knowledge that it remains protected until your patient logs into the portal to retrieve it.
Electronic Health Records:
Along with new government requirements for keeping electronic records, patients want improved access to their own information. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) make critical health information transportable in a way that hasn’t been possible before. Patients are mobile, and relocating across the state or across the country is a reality. Being able to take their health records, or having them easily sent to another provider, fosters patient engagement and communication.
Automated Patient Reminders:
Patient engagement comes in many forms, and one of the most popular is the automated appointment reminder. Busy lives mean your patients may forget or double-book their time. Providing a reminder of their appointment time and date shows them you are looking forward to seeing them and serves to jog their memory so they don’t accidentally forget you. By using an automated system, you are making patient engagement your priority without sacrificing the time of your staff to making manual calls.
Patient Engagement Through Scheduling:
Giving patients the ability to schedule an appointment from the convenience of their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop shows them that you value their time as much as they do. Online automated scheduling also encourages new patients to contact you. That kind of reach and connection, while being fully automated, still offers the personal contact your patients look for from you.
As patient engagement becomes an even more critical factor in the healthcare arena, looking for more innovative methods to make that connection with patients becomes one of your priorities. Exploring all the available technology, and selecting the means which make the most sense for you and your practice is an endeavor that is well worth the investment of your time.
For more information about technology and patient engagement, click here!