5 Best Practices for Effective Patient Engagement

Adopting a patient engagement platform poses challenges for many health systems and medical groups, both in terms of gaining buy-in from stakeholders and getting patients to use it. Overcoming those hurdles is critical, however, as an engaged patient is often one with better outcomes. And that’s more important than ever in today’s value-based healthcare environment.

A study published in Health Affairs showed that patients who were highly engaged in their care had overall medical costs that were 5.3% lower than for those receiving a usual level of support. These patients also had 12.5% fewer hospital admissions.

The same study found that patients who were least engaged in their healthcare had costs 21% higher than patients who were the most involved in their healthcare decisions.

So, what are some considerations for health systems seeking to evaluate a patient engagement solution? Here are five we’ve determined after working with several providers to implement patient engagement solutions.

1. Focus on all patients, not just the most high-risk.

Being proactive with high-risk patients just scratches the surface of patient engagement. Providers should not deploy systems that prioritize any group of patients over another. Consider a low-risk patient who develops a blood clot after surgery. If not for daily checks-ins with the patient’s care team, he or she could quickly develop a pulmonary embolism and become a high-risk patient. And that is something care teams always strive to stay ahead of. An automated patient engagement platform enables daily dialogue with all patients, not just those deemed high-risk.

2. Invest in real-time risk assessment.

An online patient engagement platform should facilitate real-time risk assessment of patients, allowing care teams to respond quickly and avoid an escalation of complications and costs. This increased connectivity with patients has a positive impact on care management performance.

The results of a University of California San Francisco study illustrate the impact of real-time, two-way communication between the patient and the care team. The study examined the impact of a patient engagement platform (HealthLoop, now GetWell Loop) on 30-day hospital readmission rates after total joint replacement procedures performed over the course of one year. The study found that patients enrolled on the platform had a 1.4% 30-day readmission rate compared to a 4.5% readmission rate for patients not on the platform. “We saw a clear signal that this sort of platform may actually decrease costs and improve outcomes,” said Stephano Bini, MD, Professor of Clinical Orthopaedics at UCSF. “This type of platform is really well received by patients, with a nearly 90% adoption rate, even among an older population.”

3. Recognize that different populations will need different interventions.

Your patient engagement platform won’t succeed with a one-size-fits-all approach. The solution should deliver customized clinical content relevant to a diagnosis. A surgical care plan, for example, would include pre- and post-surgical instructions, information about potential complications, patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) survey questions, pain and medication tracking, and more. For managing diabetes, a care plan would help track glucose levels, HgA1C, weight, insulin requirements, and hospital admissions.

 4. Determine the solution’s ability to scale. 

When the Cleveland Clinic, a multi-specialty academic hospital, rolled out HealthLoop (now GetWell Loop), it logged 21,000 patient interactions per month. Adrienne Boissy, MD, Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Experience Officer and a staff neurologist, said during a presentation at HIMSS 2017 that patient engagement can scale to handle large numbers of patients if the technology integrates easily with electronic health records, and is intuitive and easy for healthcare professionals to use. That said, if internal resources don’t allow for immediate integration with a health system’s EHR, an automated patient engagement solution should also offer the flexibility to stand alone.

5. Prioritize improving care quality and service

Daily engagement enables patients and providers to communicate questions and concerns and address problems quickly, before a small problem becomes a big one. This personalized, high-touch communication and support not only improves outcomes, it provides a level of service that treats the patient as if he or she were the most important person in the world. When patients feel supported by their care teams outside the walls of the hospital with regular check-ins, they are more likely to recommend their physician to others.

The evidence for patient engagement is strong. Providers see fewer complications and hospital readmissions, higher online ratings for their physicians, fewer calls coming in from patients, fewer unnecessary office visits and higher rates of PROM survey collection. But most importantly, engaged patients are healthier and more satisfied patients.