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Enhancing the patient experience and outcomes through patient engagement tools


Communication is the key to ensuring health and wellness don’t get lost in transition.

health care teamwork puzzle pieces: © Beaunitta Van Wyk/peopleimages.com - stock.adobe.com

© Beaunitta Van Wyk/peopleimages.com - stock.adobe.com

Everyone I’ve met in a long career in health care is dedicated to patients. Helping people is the reason we get into this challenging, sometimes nerve-wracking field to begin with.

Yet, ironically, patients are often poorly integrated into the information flow about their own situations. This has real consequences for how they perceive the care they’re receiving and how well they follow instructions after discharge. A study by The Beryl Institute found that 76% of Americans surveyed said they had not had a positive patient experience during the prior three months, and 60% had an outright negative health care experience during that period of time.

Will O'Connor, MD

Will O'Connor, MD

A lot goes into those numbers, though I want to focus here on overall patient engagement – the sum of the quality and amount of information, interaction, and mutual understanding between patients and caregivers through the entire patient experience. From the patient’s perspective, that experience begins before treatment or admission and continues through any transition of care (ToC). Those care transitions take many forms and might include a facility transfer or a discharge where managing follow-up appointments, drug regimens, and behavior changes largely falls on the patient.

The stakes around quality communication through these care transitions can be high for the patient, of course. It also matters for hospitals. Last year, readmission rates for hospitals reached nearly 16%. That directly impacts the financial health of the institution when readmission is linked to reimbursements.

Poor patient engagement isn’t the only communication issue in the hospital.

The problem of fragmented communication

The challenge of patient engagement is an important aspect of the larger issue of fragmented communication within the health care system. I talk to doctors, nurses, and administrators across the nation, and the patterns are very predictable. Workflow efficiency is compromised by poor communications, such as phone tag, too many disparate systems, and the lack of contextual information exchange. If doctors and nurses have trouble engaging each other, it’s no wonder the patients aren’t better integrated into the information flow.

Unifying everyone’s experience – staff and patients – should be the goal when considering patient engagement strategies. Managing the transition of care offers a good case study on the value of unified experiences. Especially tricky during transitions of care, patient outcomes and overall satisfaction can be closely tied to how well they understand their care when leaving the hospital. One of the most significant challenges in ToC lies in ensuring patient adherence to the provider’s recommendations post-discharge. It is here that technology can play a transformative role.

Understanding patient engagement tools

Patient engagement tools can transform how patients and health care providers interact, fostering a more active and empowered role for patients to play in their care. These tools leverage digital platforms, mobile devices, and interactive communication channels to enable patients to access their health information, communicate with care teams, and make decisions about their treatment plans.

In addition, they drive post-hospital care plan adherence with appointment reminders, follow-ups, education materials, and more through video, voice, or SMS text messaging. These tools keep everyone connected and relieve some of the health-management burden patients carry when they leave the hospital.

Enhancing the patient experience during ToC

By leveraging agile patient engagement solutions, health care facilities and patients can experience a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Seamless information exchange: One of the primary challenges during health care transitions is the transfer of patient information across various care settings. Patient engagement tools streamline this process by securely and efficiently sharing EHRs between providers. As a result, patients experience reduced wait times, minimized duplications of tests, and a more cohesive care plan.
  • Empowered decision-making: By providing access to personalized health information, treatment options, and educational resources, patients are better equipped to make informed choices aligned with their preferences and values. This heightened sense of involvement increases patient satisfaction and confidence in their health care journey.
  • Real-time communication: During ToC, timely and effective communication is crucial to address patient concerns and coordinate care effectively. Patient engagement tools facilitate real-time messaging between patients and health care providers, enabling swift responses to questions, concerns, or patient condition changes. This ensures a smoother transition and reduces the likelihood of adverse events.
  • Reduced readmissions: Avoidable hospital readmissions, usually within 30 days of the initial admission, constitute a critical component of ToC management. McKinsey & Company employed a machine learning model and determined that, without primary care follow-up, patients face a 23% chance of readmission. Empowering patients through education, self-assessment tools, and post-discharge follow-up enhances their ability to recognize warning signs and seek timely care, preventing readmissions caused by avoidable complications.
  • Chronic disease management: Care continuity is a must for patients with chronic conditions. Patient engagement tools facilitate care coordination among different specialists and provide patients with personalized care plans, lifestyle guidance, and self-management tools to effectively manage their conditions beyond hospital walls.
  • Health literacy and empowerment: Patient engagement tools are pivotal in enhancing health literacy by providing accessible and understandable health information. When patients are more informed and confident in managing their health, they are more likely to engage in preventive behaviors and early interventions, leading to better health outcomes.

Patient satisfaction is closely intertwined with the comprehension of their care after leaving the hospital. By fostering active patient participation, seamless information exchange, and improved communication between patients and health care providers, patient engagement tools enhance the patient experience and improve health outcomes. As the health care industry embraces digital transformation, these tools will remain central to achieving patient-centered care and optimizing the overall quality of health care services. Adopting these technologies is not just a step forward for health care providers but a leap toward empowering patients in their health journey.
We can improve the health care system. The most important step is to get everyone talking to each other by lifting the barriers that exist between the doctors, the nurses, the administrators, and the patients.

Will O’Connor, MD, is chief medical information officer for TigerConnect. He’s an industry-known physician executive with more than 20 years of health care experience focused on operations, strategic planning, consulting, client delivery, and thought leadership across the health care industry. As an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. O’Connor has significant provider experience as well as deep commercial experience, having worked for multiple companies, including McKesson, Allscripts/Eclipsys, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He specializes in assisting large health systems, academic medical centers, community hospitals, and payers leverage health care information technology and operational improvements to advance their clinical and financial outcomes.

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