With Patient Engagement, Start out on the Right Foot

Until recently, patients have faced significant challenges when engaging with their providers outside of in-person visits or hospital stays. Regular, daily dialogue between patient and provider was cumbersome and inconsistent for both parties.

Today, patient engagement solutions abound. Providers find that using new technologies to facilitate regular communication with patients is not only elevating the quality of care, but reducing inefficiencies in its delivery.

While a growing number of providers are implementing new software to extend their engagement with patients, others are still considering how best to get started, and how to identify which solution will work for their organization. 

The real starting point

When determining how, why and when to implement new software for communicating with patients, providers must first identify any resources that are being underutilized in their organizations. In most cases, the patient is that resource.

Many software solutions enable healthcare facilities to more easily disseminate information to patients before and after their actual episode of care. But how do care teams know that their messages are being received? If the patient engagement solution is merely a tool to broadcast information to patients, how do the organizations using them know that these communications really improve patient adherence, cut costs or boost patient satisfaction scores?

Understand that patient engagement is a two-way conversation, just as any dialogue must be. Providers should not only seek out an easy way to provide information to patients; they should also look for solutions that give the patient a voice. The solution that makes it easier to listen to patients is the one that will lead to better outcomes.

Today’s patient is connected, informed and empowered. This is not limited to certain patient groups, or patients in certain parts of the country. This is true of all patients, regardless of demographics or health conditions.

The patient wants to be heard. If your organization wants better outcomes, better patient satisfaction and a better return on investment, the patient will be your starting point.

Setting clear goals and measuring progress

In rolling out patient engagement solutions, decide what success will look like. Just as every patient is different, every provider is different and will have varying definitions of what successful patient engagement will include.

There are many commonalities when it comes to setting goals, however. Every provider wants to streamline operations, cut unnecessary costs, improve care quality and boost the reputation of the institution and its clinicians.

Whether your main goal is to achieve better outcomes, reach more patients, elevate patient experiences — or a combination of all those things — measuring the success of the rollout on a constant basis through actionable analytics is critically important.

In addition to understanding how your organization compares to national benchmarks at baseline, determine the total number of patients you want to enroll in an engagement program, and set a target date for reaching that goal. Keep a close eye on the number of patients signing up, and then watch how they interact with the system.

As more patients are onboarded, is the provider gaining a clearer picture of patient satisfaction? Is ongoing dialogue with patients reducing readmission rates? Are post-acute care costs moving in the right direction following the launch of the platform?

Constant monitoring of results is the way to learn early on whether your goals for patient engagement are going to be reached.

Other important features of a patient engagement solution

 Whatever your goal in better engaging patients, there are several important considerations for any provider looking to implement a new solution. Importantly, it should not be disruptive to IT systems already in place.

The solution that works for you should be flexible in that it can operate independently and integrate easily with your EHR. An adaptable solution leads to a faster, smoother implementation. In healthcare delivery, the transition to a new system needs to be frictionless if it is going to add value. Take our client Froedtert Health, for example. In 2016, they went from contract signature to launch in 67 days. How did they accomplish this?

The Director of the Joint Preservation and Replacement Program took ownership and managed the physicians and nurse navigators to gain alignment and consensus on the ideal patient experience and educational course. The IT project manager owned coordination of training and workflow discussions. Through a clear vision, sense of responsibility and governance they achieved a go-live date in record time.

Additionally, a patient engagement solution must maintain a broad library of clinical care plans, so that it can be deployed in multiple departments. This is critical, so that certain patient populations are not left out in the cold while other groups are able to frequently touch base with their care teams.

An effective system will also provide automated remote patient monitoring and care team coordination capabilities, because new technologies should be focused on extending care beyond the four walls of hospital.

The right starting point leads to the right outcome

Take a look at other health systems and the patient engagement platforms they have implemented. Have they improved outcomes for patients? Has their new system proven to be a good investment?

On average, our clients see a 38% reduction in readmissions and a 33% reduction in complications which translates to significant cost savings and maximized reimbursements. Additionally, patients using GetWell Loop have a 58% increase in self-reported discharge to home rate as compared to National Hospital Discharge Survey 2010 benchmark data. With an average SNF stay costing $16,882, these outcomes demonstrate tangible value to our clients — this is the level of actionable analytics you should seek when identifying the right solution for your organization.

If you are putting the patient at the center of the equation, and implementing a system that enables two-way conversation, then you are starting out on the right foot. Listening is every bit as important as providing information – and often more important.

If you know what success will look like for your organization, and you have all the tools in place to measure your progress as you attempt to reach your goals, then you are in a good position to make patient engagement work for every stakeholder.

The implementation of a new system is a big and important step for every healthcare provider. Don’t settle for a patient engagement solution that falls short.