Why do medical practices reach out to their patients? The answer seems obvious — because patients who are engaged in their own care tend to be healthier, which makes the job of the physician easier and helps control costs.
But if the answer is so obvious, why don’t more practices have effective Patient Engagement?
A 2016 NEJM Catalyst survey, for example, found that 70% of respondents said that fewer than half of their patients are highly engaged in their own health. And just 9% of the practices surveyed reported that they had more than three-quarters of their patients well engaged in their own care.
Part of the problem is understanding what exactly is meant by Patient Engagement. It means a lot more than getting patients to the office and greeting them by name. It requires getting to know them well, and understanding as much as possible about them, including personal health history, family background, social support networks, and personal interests.
In a practical sense, Patient Engagement combines that background knowledge with training in healthcare IT tools — such as Kiosk, Patient Portal, and healow apps — with the end goal of creating an outstanding patient experience.
Even well-established practices with great doctors and the best of intentions sometimes find that they need help in creating that level of experience for their patients.
Dr. Amar Shah, for example, felt that his practice, Prime Care Family Practice in Prince George, Virginia, was doing a great job reaching out to patients. But after working with the healow Patient Relationship Management (PRM) Services team, Prime Care saw major improvements.
With the knowledge and training provided by the PRM Services team, the practice found that many more patients began using the healow app to check their records and lab results and exchange messages with their providers.
“Engagement is very important because we need to establish a relationship with our patients. And using the healow app, they are able to talk to the doctor directly in their own words about what is going on with them or what they need.”
– Stephanie Gravely, Certified Medical Assistant and scribe at Prime Care
Gravely’s point about establishing relationships with patients is underscored by Dr. David H. Newman in his book “Hippocrates’ Shadow.” Dr. Newman writes that doctors don’t always fully understand a patient’s ailment, a reality that “… only highlights the importance of patient opinions, views, and desires. Physicians are only, after all, consultants to the health of others.”
Where such partnerships exist, the results can be extraordinary, as this September 2014 article in Health Affairs details. But whatever a practice’s size, specialty, or location may be, Patient Engagement can play a vital role in helping improve medical practice and promote better outcomes.