The Importance of Scaling Digital Engagement Programs

Digital engagement is on the rise in healthcare, an industry where market demand for digital access means that:

And, after all, why not?

If it’s true that more than 96% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, with over 81% of Americans owning a smartphone, then it stands to reason that they might want to access or engage with their providers on those devices, ensuring seamless communication even when they are distant from their places of care.

In fact, “60% of survey respondents said they are open to giving their doctors real-time access to health information via connected devices and apps,” according to Healthcare IT News.

Digital engagement programs, like remote patient monitoring, can make the difference between a patient who is seen once and feels lost and a patient who is communicated to continually and feels cared for.

But implementing the right digital engagement solution can be tricky — who will staff it? How can providers ensure an authentic, empathetic experience for their patients? How can they scale the program to meet the needs of a thriving healthcare environment?

Luckily, there are reliable best practices for growing digital engagement programs. Let’s take a closer look.

Humanize and failure-proof the patient’s experience

Patient engagement, above all else, is about the patient’s own experience, and there are a number of important angles to consider.

  • How are patients viewing their care?
  • Do they feel valued?
  • Do they feel heard?
  • Above all else, do they feel understood?

One way to improve the patient experience is to ensure that any digital engagement program visually connects back to the patient’s provider and the health system as a whole. Patients who make a connection with their care team are more apt to stay involved in their own care. It’s also important to use empathetic language in all communications. This is especially crucial — if patients don’t feel heard by their providers, why would they listen to the recommendations made?

An equally important practice is to take patient concerns and preferences into account by offering patient-selected notification and language preferences in any digital engagement offerings. These enable patients to feel at home in an arena that may feel a little unfamiliar to them, and a comfortable patient is an engaged patient, and one more likely to have a positive experience.

Finally, consider the care experience from the patient’s perspective. A pediatric patient, for example, may need a digital offering that allows a caregiver to be entered as a proxy, given their age or condition. Ensure that any technology offered can meet those individual needs, as well as conveying a broader care plan.

Whether in an inpatient or ambulatory setting, digital engagement programs can be the bridge between a patient’s inaction and commitment — as long as health systems are willing to humanize the experience from the get-go.

Align with clinical preferences and workflows

While facilitating the patient experience is crucial, no digital engagement program will succeed without buy-in from providers. From learning the ins and outs of the tool to ensuring seamless interaction, they’ll be on the frontlines of engaging with patients, and without their support, any digital program will never successfully scale.

There’s good news, though. That buy-in can be won by considering provider needs alongside those of patients. In looking for the right program, it’s important to identify ones that allow things like rapid clinician-level customization of care instructions (both initially and on an ongoing basis). This enables providers and health systems to personalize care in a way that many patients may not expect, leading to higher engagement and better outcomes.

It is also crucial to align any new digital engagement program with existing and evolving clinical workflows for patient triage. By slotting digital offerings into work that is already being done, it’ll be that much easier for providers to get on board and incorporate new practices into their daily routine.

Finally, ensure flexible integration with patient- and clinician-facing tools by choosing a digital engagement program that has demonstrated success integrating with patient portals and “digital front doors.” Why? As with the alignment to clinical workflows, by allowing patients and providers to interact in a manner with which they’re already familiar, any growing digital offerings will be much better set up for success.

The bottom line

Technology has come a long way, and digital engagement programs offer exciting possibilities for the care and support of patients. But without patient and clinician buy-in and program accommodations, digital offerings won’t be able to scale in the manner health systems would like.

However, humanizing the patient’s experience and aligning digital offerings to clinical preferences will go a long way towards both gaining patient trust and provider buy-in. And that’s the first step on the road to successful patient/provider interactions, facilitated and scaled with the aid of technology.