Patient Engagement as a Strategic Priority: How to Get There. And Why You Should.

Ask anyone in healthcare if providing a good experience for patients or if having patients who are engaged in their care is a good thing, you will of course get a resounding “yes.” Finding enthusiastic support for improving the patient experience is not a problem. The challenge is that for years — and especially as budgets tighten — patient engagement tools are often seen as a cost center. New widgets, patient interfaces, chatbots, and other AI tech just add to the bill, right? What many fail to see clearly is that patient engagement, when done well, is not an added cost — it can actually be a profit center. But to be so, healthcare organizations must reframe patient engagement as a strategic priority — as something that fosters patient affinity, improves care team efficiency, and drives better care.

Three forces driving changes for healthcare

The healthcare industry — not unaccustomed to facing some pretty big hurdles — is in the midst of years of cascading challenges. The healthcare workforce is in crisis. Record high staff vacancies are leaving clinical staff exhausted, overwhelmed, and frustrated that they are unable to provide the level of care patients deserve — something that directly, and negatively, impacts the patient experience. 

Meanwhile, evolving consumer behavior means that patients crave a better digital healthcare experience and have become choosier of their providers pending their maturity in that space. Fifty-four percent of consumers say they are likely to switch providers for superior virtual care offerings and 49% wish the digital healthcare experience were smoother and more intuitive like what they see from the Amazons and Netflixes of the world. Add to that a third factor of hospitals’ operating under financial stress and extremely tight margins. 

This perfect storm had been brewing for years and boiled over in the years since the Covid-19 pandemic. And trying to address these disparate challenges in today’s healthcare environment is no easy task. 

But what if the solution to all these challenges could be unlocked through digital engagement technology? What if a single, yet holistic consumer digital health engagement and navigation platform could help reduce costs, boost retention, improve health equity, and drive positive outcomes? 

As the industry continues to shift to a model where consumer pressures are more prevalent, healthcare organizations need to invest more in the patient experience. With more control over their choices, if people do not feel like they have access to the care and resources they need, they will leave when they can for a better experience. Now more than ever, providing a superior patient experience is critical. And to do that, you need to position patient engagement as a strategic priority — something that is supported from the highest levels of the organization.

Patient engagement done right is the the right thing to do

Beyond providing a positive patient experience, doing patient engagement well is a moral imperative. Healthcare organizations have an obligation to provide the best experience for all patients and ensure that all patients have equal access to the right resources and tools — ones that have been selected just for them, just when they need them.

As consumer behavior evolves and patients increasingly seek greater control over their healthcare decisions, providing an equitable experience for all is challenging. That’s where digital engagement technology must combine with digital intimacy and human touch. 

And this is especially important when we’re talking about issues like maternal health equity. According to new international data, maternal mortality rates in the United States continue to exceed the rates of other high-income countries. According to data reported recently by the CommonWealth Fund, “in 2020, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was 24 deaths per 100,000 live births — more than three times the rate in most other high-income countries.” We know that more than half — 60% by some accounts — of these deaths are preventable. And we know that these outcomes are worse for black and brown birthing people. Black people are three times more likely to die of complications from childbirth. 

Through Get Well’s maternal health and equity program, healthcare organizations can leverage AI technology, SMS texting, and virtual, human navigators to improve engagement rates among birthing people. A partnership with CommonSpirit Health saw more than 67% engagement rates among Black patients and more than 73% engagement among Hispanic patients — bi-directional engagement rates that are 2-3 times higher than the industry average. 

Prioritizing clarity, convenience, and compassion in healthcare

If there’s one thing that most everyone across the healthcare ecosystem — patients, providers, health systems, and payers — can all agree on is that far too often, a person’s healthcare journey is too confusing, inconvenient, and lacking in empathy and compassion. 

Delivering digital intimacy at scale — meeting the expectations of patients as healthcare consumers, while supporting care teams more closely, improving clinical outcomes, and increasing revenue, takes a multi-pronged approach. 

Touching more than 6 million patients and families each year at 2,000+ facilities across the world, Get Well’s digital engagement and navigation technology combines a high-tech approach — engaging and navigating patients with AI technology and SMS texting — with high-touch outreach — pairing or overlaying virtual navigators to complement the digital experiences and help guide them appropriately. This allows us to be uniquely positioned to deliver personalized care with empathy.

That’s why a high-tech, high-touch one-two punch helps organizations deliver three critical tenets of healthcare: clarity, convenience, and compassion.

Patients need healthcare to be clear. Heavy investment in patient navigation is critical. Through digital navigation that is augmented by actual people behind the technology, we can make the next step of the healthcare journey clear, enabling patients to better self manage their care but also feel supported. 

Patients need healthcare to be convenient. According to Pew Research Center, 100% of adults ages 18–29 own a cell phone, with 96% owning a smartphone. Eight-five percent of all U.S. adults own a smartphone. Bring the healthcare experience to them through AI and SMS texting — the most common way people communicate today.

Patients need healthcare to be compassionate. Ensure that the content you are using as part of your digital technology strategy is empathetic and written in plain language. And then layer in virtual navigators — real people who live in neighborhoods you’re serving, who understand the local vernacular, who speak the language. 

The bottom line

Digital technology has the potential to help fill critical gaps in access to care, but technology alone will not be enough. Using AI SMS, secure engagement technology, and — most importantly — human interaction when appropriate and necessary, enables organizations to achieve the digital intimacy that will help ensure all patients have access to the care and resources they need.

This unique combination of high-tech and high-touch engagement at scale is a vital piece of having patient engagement as a strategic priority. It should be part of the philosophy of an organization, and when implemented effectively, it can help organizations of all sizes address health equity challenges and realize meaningful improvements in outcomes. Let’s flip the script and Get Well, together. 

Learn how Get Well can help your organization take patient engagement to the next level by providing exceptional experiences that meet the needs and expectations of patients and clinicians alike. Schedule a demo today!