Professional, clinical care is certainly important when it comes to proper health and wellness. But achieving optimal health is also in the hands of the patient, not just the provider.
Patients must be involved in managing their own health if they want their professional healthcare to reach its full potential.
Whether this means knowing about treatment, gaining direct lines of communication, knocking down access barriers or something wholly different, patients have the right to be a frontline player in their healthcare.
They don’t want to be in the dark or feel powerless, and that’s absolutely understandable!
The first step is getting patients engaged with their health journey. Unfortunately, that’s often a difficult task for providers. Here, we’ll discuss the key difference between patient activation and patient engagement, as well as outline five patient engagement strategies to nurture your healthcare practice.
Patient Activation vs. Patient Engagement
Before we go further, it’s important to note the difference between patient activation and patient engagement.
According to Dr. Judith Hibbard, “patient activation” refers to a patient’s desire and ability to take care of their health independently. “Patient engagement” is an umbrella term, and patient activation falls under it.
Meanwhile, patient engagement considers a patient’s activated role in their health and treatment. But it goes further than that by recognizing the patient’s behavioral issues (think preventive care, such as exercising regularly and not smoking).
Overall, the main goal of patient engagement strategies and tools is to promote patient activation. In essence, a patient aligns positive personal behaviors with their personal health management, all in compliance with professional input.
You engage patients in hopes of making them active participants in their formal healthcare.
And patient engagement is critical for both your patients and your practice. So on that note, let’s explore five patient engagement strategies for your healthcare practice.
1. Identify Your Activated Patients
When improving your patient engagement strategy, first pinpoint your activated patients.
Professionals commonly do this through the Patient Activation Measure (PAM) — a patient survey covering six characteristics. The PAM follows a 100-point scale, and after patients take it, you can determine (calculate) how involved they are with their health.
The survey tests a patient’s ability to take certain steps:
- Self-manage their problems and/or illnesses.
- Engage in activities that promote health and decrease illness.
- Interact with providers about diagnoses and treatment options.
- Work collaboratively with providers.
- Pick providers and healthcare organizations according to their credentials, quality and performance.
- Generally understand the healthcare system.
A healthcare professional usually collects PAM responses near the beginning of an appointment. Then, a clinician reviews the answers, scores the survey and determines potential engagement strategies.
If a patient is less activated, they may have difficulty adopting engagement technologies or behavioral health changes. In this case, it’s best to use simple engagement strategies.
With basic engagement strategies, you set up a patient for success. This tactic encourages their current activation state, boosts their progress and nudges them toward a higher activation level.
2. Educate Patients With Important Health Information
It’s usually difficult for a patient to self-manage because they’re not well-versed in their health conditions and necessary treatments.
To give them the information they need, try providing education through the teach-back method, written handouts and patient portal access.
These educational tools encourage patients to speak with their providers about their health and treatment options.
Phone calls are also very helpful in terms of reviewing information that parties discussed during an appointment. But when speaking with patients over the phone, providers should use simple, clear language. Most patients can more easily understand and absorb direct speech.
When a patient can digest complicated health information, their overall health literacy — or how well they understand their health — improves. In turn, they can make better-informed wellness decisions in the future.
3. Minimize Barriers Between Provider and Patient
A major challenge that patients face when seeking care is lack of access.
Multiple factors can prevent a patient from progressing in their health and wellness. These are some of the most prevalent issues — you’ll notice most boil down to access:
- Location (such as a rural home)
- Inability to find or buy nutritious food
- Social interaction limitations
Virtual care is one clear solution for this. It keeps patients engaged and closes the healthcare accessibility gap.
So, if an in-person visit isn’t practical or possible, remote healthcare access via virtual tools allows patients to feel supported by their provider.
And thanks to advancements in healthcare systems technology, virtual tools facilitate real-time, meaningful interactions between providers and patients. That sense of connection lasts throughout their health and wellness journey.
4. Share Decision-Making Between Providers and Patients
When you need to engage patients, shared decision-making is an incredible strategy. It helps them feel involved! After all, the decisions providers make are about them.
When patients are a central figure in their care plan, they’re directly involved in their treatment plan. This dynamic leads to higher patient activation, which improves the likelihood that they’ll reach their wellness goals.
Providers can take these steps when creating a shared decision-making process:
- Review a patient’s personal preferences when making important decisions.
- Tell patients about all treatment options available (and relevant) to their health.
- Ask a patient about their health values and goals.
- Come to a shared decision with a patient about their treatment.
- Consider a patient’s thoughts and preferences about their treatment.
Having these discussions with patients might seem challenging because of time restraints. For example, primary care physicians only spend an average of 13 to 16 minutes with patients. So these discussions are well worth it — your patients should feel involved and informed, as well as have a sense of control.
To speed the process, you can also use digital and paper tools that maintain efficient office workflows.
5. Support Patients Outside the Clinic
Patients spend most of their time outside the clinic, so maintaining a direct line of communication is crucial. This ensures they stay activated and motivated about their health.
And that’s where health information technology (IT) comes in.
For example, patient portals are a great modern IT solution for healthcare workers. They allow both patients and providers to message each other with questions, updates and more.
A patient portal is also a great way to motivate patients in terms of their general progress and well-being.
Consider how quickly you can send and receive texts and calls. That almost-instantaneous communication is a huge help when it comes to support outside the clinic.
Texts and calls also promote preventive care and new, healthy behaviors in patients because both parties can check in and get fast responses.
Note: Automated notifications work great for prescription refills, appointment reminders and more. However, personal messages are better for discussing behavioral changes or evaluations.
[Related: Considering Using AI in Your Healthcare Practice? Here’s Where To Start]
Contact Wendi for Personalized Healthcare Technology
To improve your patient engagement, get in touch with Wendi. As a cutting-edge AI healthcare assistant, we make it easy for you to stay in touch with patients during each step of their wellness journey.
Whether you’re scheduling appointments, sending prescriptions, messaging, screening or acquiring patients, Wendi helps you get the job done — quickly and remotely.
See how Wendi helps you engage with your patients (and vice versa) so that you can better care for them. Schedule a free demo today!
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