March 11, 2021

6 Tips for Increasing Engagement with Every Patient

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Tags: Medical

When a patient participates in managing their health, they are more likely to follow medical advice, take steps in bettering their health, and consistently show up for appointments. When unengaged, patients are 3x more likely to have unmet medical needs and 2x more likely to delay medical care.

As a healthcare provider, you want to provide patients with innovative ways to manage their health so that valuing it becomes easier. While modern engagement techniques point to using technology at every turn, not all patients respond well to technology-based communication channels. Some feel overwhelmed by the seeming complexity of online appointment scheduling or using a video conferencing software to talk with their doctor.

We’ve identified six tips that are friendly to both tech and non-tech savvy patients to increase patient engagement. Using these methods can help patients with varying degrees of  technology literacy achieve their optimal state of health.

If you’re looking for patient engagement software to increase engagement with every patient, use our Product Selection Tool to request a free, personalized shortlist of the best software for you. We’ll ask a few questions to determine your needs and we’ll send you five systems that meet them the best.

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Tips for engagement with every patient, regardless of technical ability

1. Ask about and honor communication preferences 

One size does not fit all when it comes to patient engagement. To determine the best methods for increasing engagement with your patients, you should first analyze how involved your patients already are and understand their preferred communication channel.

Many healthcare professionals use the Patient Activation Measure, a 100-point scale that assesses an individual’s knowledge, skill, confidence, and preferences in managing their own health.

Consider using this survey to know more about your patients’ ability to self-manage their health and tailor your strategies in increasing patient activation. For example, you may learn from your results that the majority of your patients are not willing to adopt any new engagement technologies and that they prefer simpler, nontechnical engagement methods. Or you may learn that your patients have been waiting for you to automate your health care system for the past three years.

This survey can be integrated into your EHR system. You can ask patients to complete it before the appointment as part of their paperwork, or after they’ve had their healthcare visit.

2. Motivate with rewards

As offering rewards can help motivate employees, the same goes for patients. Rewarding patients can encourage them to achieve their health goals and strengthen the patient-provider relationship.

Consider incentivizing with a gift certificate or an entry into a raffle if a patient hits a certain blood pressure number or completes supplementary education about their journey to recovery. It doesn’t have to be expensive; you’d be surprised at the outcome a small reward brings.

It’s worth noting that offering a rewards program should not be seen as a substitute for offering valuable care in order to keep a patient. If a patient has a poor experience with their provider, it’s unlikely a gift card will keep them around.

3. Include patients in shared decision-making

Shared decision-making creates a patient-centered health care experience. Clinicians and patients work together to make decisions and choose tests, treatments, and care plans that balances expected outcomes with patient preferences.

Giving patients the knowledge and ability to choose their treatment options, guided by a clinician, builds a trusting relationship between the two parties and increases the likelihood the patient will follow through with the plan.

The six steps to engaging patients in shared decision making, provided by the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, are:

  1. Invite patients to participate
  2. Present options
  3. Provide information on benefits and risks
  4. Assist patients in evaluating options based on their concerns and goals
  5. Facilitate deliberation and decision-making
  6. Assist with implementation

4. Get patients involved in setting goals for their health

Goal setting is essential to education and engagement. For example, a patient recently diagnosed with diabetes may understand that eating healthy, being active, and taking medication are necessary behaviors for self-management, but without specific goals, they may find it overwhelming.

Facilitate goal-setting discussions with your patient, and make sure that these goals are important to them. They may be told that they need to lose 20 pounds, but they need information on how to lose the weight and the importance behind it.

Help patients set goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. By setting feasible goals that can be accomplished in incremental steps, patients are encouraged to keep moving forward.

5. Set up texting reminders

Even if you patients don’t want online appointment scheduling or online billing, chances are they are familiar with reading and replying to text messages. Setting up text-based appointment reminders does not mean patients have to download an app, set up an online portal account, or remember login credentials.

71 percent of patients said they’d prefer to receive an appointment reminder via text as opposed to a phone call. Many patients don’t answer unknown phone numbers for fear of spam calls warning them about their car’s extended warranty.

Many EMR tools such as Kareo provide features for sending appointment reminders to patients that only require them to reply with a hassle-free Yes or No confirmation message. Reminding patients about their appointment will decrease the amount of no-shows and wasted time.

6. Expand patient engagement to family engagement

In most cases, patient-centered care does not start and end with the patient. They have a network of friends and family behind them, and clinicians should be mindful of the role they play in patient engagement. Family members provide emotional support and accountability and serve as caregivers.

Have patients identify loved ones with whom information can be shared, following HIPAA guidelines. Over 90 percent of people want the ability to communicate with their loved one’s care team via text messaging.

Incorporating family into treatment plans and logistical support greatly heightens patient engagement. They serve as an extra set of eyes and ears to understand the importance of the patient’s health care plan and help them implement it outside of the doctor’s office.

Increase patient engagement with the right software

Even if your patients aren’t tech savvy, your practice can still use patient engagement software to send out text-based appointment reminders and give you CRM capabilities. Use our Product Selection Tool to get a shortlist of software recommendations that are tailored to your needs.