Many industries today focus on strengthening consumer engagement with their products and services. Whether it’s via social media, websites, mobile apps, video media, or televised commercials, companies across the globe know the importance of marketing their products, services, and technological advances in maintaining profit margins and consumer satisfaction levels. The healthcare industry would be wise to follow similar industry strategies in order to strengthen patient engagement.
There are a numerous views on what exactly defines patient engagement. Broadly speaking, patient engagement is defined as the degree to which patients are involved in their own care. A generally accepted, comprehensive definition provided by HIMSS Analytics states “An organization’s strategy to get patients involved in actively and knowledgeably managing their own health and wellness and that of family members and others for whom they have responsibility. This includes reviewing and managing care records, learning about conditions, adopting healthy behaviors, making informed healthcare purchases, and interacting with care providers as a partner.”1 Essentially, patient engagement refers to the tools and technologies healthcare organizations use to engage patients before or after acute episodes of care and during the time between in-person visits.
The time between visits is a particular challenge in patient engagement. During provider-patient visits, discussions with care providers and increased involvement with the patient tends to lead to higher levels of engagement. As months pass after visits, active participation is no longer necessary and engagement becomes less of a priority. The result is often forgotten instructions provided during the visit. The effectiveness of continuous engagement with patients after their treatment was tested with a program that delivered text messages three days a week to 700 gastroenterology patients who were trying to lose weight during a six month period from November 2012 to April 2013. The objective was to analyze the effectiveness of prolonged engagement by comparing the success of the treatment between those who received texts and remained engaged with a control group who was left alone. The results showed that patients who received the text messages dropped 0.5 more on the Body Mass Index (BMI) than patients who did not participate.2 This simple example of increased communication depicts the drastic impact that engagement can have on the patient’s long-term, perceived value of the treatment and instructions given.
The ability to remain in contact with patients through text messaging is an example of how changes in technology offer new opportunities to increase patient engagement. Yet, despite numerous new systems used today, raising patient engagement remains a challenge. In part, this is due to the complexity and scope of effective long-term engagement. According to Dan Housman, Director at Deloitte, the biggest challenges of the historically accepted model of provider and patient relationships stem from assumptions which fail to account for the uniqueness of the individuals involved. These assumptions include that a patient must be obedient and that a physician should act with authority.3 This way of thinking undermines patient-centricity and fails to develop a healthy relationship which promotes patient engagement. By addressing the flaws in the traditional model and revising those to better reflect trending patient-focused values, healthcare providers can more effective communicate the value of continued patient engagement, which ultimately results in its increase.
IBM Watson Health is an example of one of the countless companies in healthcare making efforts to change this model and enhance patient engagement initiatives. This September, they launched a population health program, expanding their online cloud capabilities to provide a more accessible, relevant platform for accessing industry-specific trends and innovations. It is staffed with a team of professionals that engage with users, answering any questions very quickly. This results in more informed patients and addresses the issues with the assumptions in the traditional provider-patient relationship model. Furthermore, the program promotes and records user feedback on treatment which can be used to further improve the methods of care and provide tangible results in healthcare outcomes. Michael Rhodin, Senior Vice President of IBM Watson Group, stated in a press release “This newest expansion of the IBM Watson Health Cloud makes it an even more robust and flexible platform for the life sciences and healthcare industries and explains its rapid adoption among leading organizations in these fields.”4 The value added to the interaction helps to promote further patient engagement over time.
Patient engagement is an important aspect the healthcare. It leads to better health outcomes for patients by increasing their understanding of the value in instructions from providers and promotes adhering to suggested preventative measures. Healthcare providers must continuously reach out to patients, keeping them motivated and increasing both parties understanding of the other. CHI will be further exploring patient engagement and its challenges in today’s dynamic healthcare industry at its upcoming Healthcare Executive Roundtable on October 15, 2015 in Manhattan. For more information, please visit http://www.chisite.org/education/healthcare-executive-roundtable.
- Noteboom, Michelle Ronan. “From Patient Engagement to Telehealth, What Does It All Mean?” Healthcare IT News. 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 2 Oct. 2015
- Fellows, Jacqueline. “Meeting the Challenge of Patient Engagement.” HealthLeaders Media. 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 2 Oct. 2015
- Gruessner,Vera. “What Obstacles Stand in the Way of Patient Engagement? ” MHealth Intelligence. 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 2 Oct. 2015
- Gruessner, Vera. “Could a Population Health System Improve Patient Engagement?” MHealth Intelligence. 14 Sept. 2015. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.