Historically, patient engagement has involved the relationship between patients and physicians in making care decisions and how to improve patient efforts to manage their own care.
Viquar Mundozie, MD, FAAFP, a family physician with Mercyhealth in Harvard, Ill., says the industry is increasingly seeing efforts to integrate patient input in different ways, including efforts to improve or redesign service delivery by incorporating patient experiences.
“Healthcare organizations use different tools and methods to get patient feedback,” he says. “Recently, assessments of quality of care from the patient perspective have shifted from patient satisfaction to patient experience. Such engagement leads to improved quality of life and accountability of health services.”
In order to get patients involved more, many physicians and other providers are relying on communication through their websites and being more active on social media platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“We have realized more and more people are researching physicians and hospitals online before they choose who they want to see,” Mundozie says. “Sites like Health grades, Vitals, Zocdoc, etc. have ratings, reviews, credentials about physicians and hospitals.”
For example, after Mundozie started his own Facebook page and Instagram professional account, he has seen more new patients and followers that ask questions and request the latest medical information relevant to their health issues.
“Being a member of physician social media groups like SoMeDocs and AHSM [Association for healthcare Social Media] helps me connect, gives a voice to the world and get ideas on improving patient-care,” he says. “Patient engagement is vital to any health organization and practice. It’s an ongoing tool to improve a practice, method of delivering care and receiving regular feedback so we can continue to provide our patients the best care possible.”
Additionally, Mundozie says that in the era of EHR, many health practitioners are using patient portals as an effective tool to engage patients. Patient portals give patients access to their health information such as health history, current medical problems, current medications, preventative care that they are due for, and labs/tests.
“They can message their provider for any questions they might have, request refills and even make appointments with their primary physician online,” Mundozie says. “This gives them a broader control over their healthcare and makes them actively involved in an easy, quick and effective way thereby problems are solved before they get worse hence reducing healthcare costs and keeping patients healthy.”
Some doctors and hospitals use follow-up surveys, paper forms and even texts and emails to get feedback.
“They may call patients within 24 to 48 hours to check on their health because sometimes patients are overwhelmed with a lot of information that’s difficult for them and families to grasp,” he says. “This helps us with TCM [transitional care medicine] visits when patients see us for a follow-up.”
Mundozie also sees a rise in smart phone healthcare Apps, something he says can get patients more involved in monitoring their food journals, exercise, blood glucose, medications and more. He’s also had good results with his patients using Fitbit.
Various studies have shown that active patient engagement helps gain their interest, their trust, and ultimately improve the outcomes in their treatment.
“Getting patients involved actively in their healthcare is a key to success in keeping them and communities healthy,” Mundozie says. “As more people have been utilizing online platforms in this digital age, doctors are taping in these resources to market their practice, disperse current medical knowledge and receive feedback to improve the quality of care.”
Furthermore, he feels tracking and measuring the patient engagement outcomes is crucial for clinicians to learn, improve, and change strategies.
“The goal of patient engagement is primarily a good communication and awareness for both providers and patients so it eases the health burden and cost in the long run,” Mundozie says. “In order to meet this goal, we stay in touch with patients by calling and sending letters to see the providers on a regular basis, and ask them to make a follow-up appointment before they leave so they are getting automated phone calls and reminders one week before their next appointment.”