What is patient engagement?
Patient engagement is getting patients involved in their own healthcare, and working together with a physician to improve overall health. Patient engagement is said to lower costs of healthcare, better patient care and improve health outcomes of patients. Simply put, patient engagement supports the theory that taking better care of yourself and communicating properly with a physician will increase an individual’s all around health, which will then lead to lower costs of healthcare. Sounds simple, right? Well, if you’re a physician, nurse practitioner or other medical professional, you’ll know that achieving patient engagement is no easy feat.
The Frustrations of Patient Engagement
Patient engagement becomes frustrating when patients flat out refuse to take responsibility for their own health, which if you work in the medical field, you’d see this happens quite often. All too often patients hand over ownership of their health to their physician, despite only seeing this individual a few times a year. Physicians become frustrated because there is only so much they can do for a patient that doesn’t seem to care about his or her own health.
If a patient has nasty cough for months on end, and finally decides to see a physician, and the diagnosis turns out to be an aggressive form of lung cancer, a physician is stuck wondering why the individual didn’t come in sooner, while the patient is wondering why the physician didn’t catch this on the last visit. While this is an extreme example, if the patient would have taken matters into their own hands, this disease could’ve been caught earlier, improving overall health and decreasing medical costs.
On the other hand, the doctor-patient relationship is just as frustrating for patients. Many patients report being unable to get an appointment with their physician in a short amount of time, while other’s feel that their physician is seeking monetary gain, which leads to cancelled follow-up appointments that patients believe are unnecessary.
Considering the frustrations of both patients and physicians, achieving patient engagement can seem impossible at times.
Strategies for Achieving Patient Engagement
Patient engagement is the ultimate goal of many physicians, after all, it improves health, betters patient care and lowers healthcare costs. Despite the attention most physicians pay to achieving patient engagement, it’s much easier said than done.
Fortunately, strategies for unlocking the mystery of patient engagement are surfacing at health facilities all across the country. Here are some of the ways healthcare centers like the Cleveland Clinic are getting their patients involved:
- Accessibility to Physicians – Physicians have busy schedules, there’s no denying that, but when a worried patient calls with a health concern, and they’re told that their trusted physician can’t see them until the middle of next week, it’s a little defeating. No one wants to make a trip to the emergency room for something that could be nothing, but if that ‘nothing’ is something, and patients let it go for too long, huge health issues can arise. Open-access scheduling, or the ability for patients to see a physician’s schedule online, is a great way for patients to view any openings that their preferred physician has that day, week or even month. It is then the patient’s responsibility to make an appointment or make other arrangements if the issue is more pressing.
- Patient Portal Messaging System – Getting ahold of a physician or nurse on the telephone can be difficult, and we know that the individuals answering the phone aren’t always the right person to be answering medical questions, so many believe that a messaging system was long overdue. Having a portal in the form of e-mail or other messaging system is not only more convenient for patients, but also for the very busy physicians and nurses.
- Patient Education – This may sound elementary, but it’s extremely important for physicians and nurses to ensure that patients know and understand what is going on with their health, and if there is something wrong, what’s the next step? Does the patient need to schedule a follow-up appointment? Do they need to get a prescription re-filled? When patients and physicians don’t communicate well, important things get lost in translation, and it can negatively effect the patient’s health.
Trying to engage our patients is no easy task, but strategies like these make patient engagement more achievable.