Getting Engaged

Apr 07, 2015 at 11:40 am by Staff

The Face of Patient Engagement in 2015

In today’s world of healthcare, patient engagement is king. But if automated appointment reminders are the extent of your organization’s communication plan, take note.

Patients in 2015 are bombarded with around-the-clock healthcare marketing, transforming medicine into a multibillion-dollar, consumer-driven industry. Throw in Meaningful Use criteria and its reimbursement-dependant push for consumer interaction, and providers can find themselves pulled between satisfying patients and placating Uncle Sam.

Maximizing Resources

Fortunately, local and state organizations are doing their part to educate practices on the how’s and why’s of patient engagement. Dennis Bagwell, president of the Nashville Medical Group Management Association, works with practice managers to encourage best practices. He said providers are doing more than ever to ensure patient satisfaction. “A lot of practices have always had commercials or a web presence but really didn’t do much with it,” he said. “Now we’re seeing much more interactive online training, customized mailers and online surveys to keep patients engaged.”

Patient portals are a big piece of the engagement puzzle and have become standard tools in most practices. “We’re seeing providers continually talking to patients about signing up for the portal whether checking in or out,” he said. “If a patient doesn’t feel comfortable with it, an employee will offer to fill it out for them.”

Patient Portals: A Standard of Care

Fahad Tahir, CEO of Saint Thomas Medical Partners, said their interactive Athena-brand patient portal is utilized by one in four patients – a surprisingly high percentage of patients that includes many in the 65-plus age bracket. Implemented May 2014, the tool helps Saint Thomas Health provide coordinated, integrated care.

“Healthcare grew up in parts – from physician, specialty and hospital care – and they’ve all grown in complexity and size,” Tahir said. “You have to think from a patient’s perspective as they touch all parts of a healthcare system and ask if you’re making it user friendly for patients and their families.”

Tahir said Saint Thomas is very proactive in growing patient enrollment online, and they consistently educate patients who are hesitant to register. Still, portal adoption and use are two different things, said Tahir, and management of that system across all populations can be a balancing act of recognizing capabilities of the infrastructure and understanding how it best serves patients across all populations.

Proactive Messaging Services

While many patient engagement tools rely on action by the consumer, others put the provider in the driver’s seat. Franklin-based Relatient is a real-time, data-driven company providing EHR and practice management solutions nationwide.

“With proper messaging driven by data, it means data must be captured accurately and consistently target the right population,” said Relatient founder and CEO Sam Johnson.

But between appointment reminders, discharge and procedure follow-ups, financial messages, eHealth updates and satisfaction surveys, it’s easy for patients to become overloaded. Throw in multiple login IDs, and patients are less likely to buy in, much less stick around long-term. “Every vendor is messaging patients in each category and trying to prove their value to the organization, but they’re not concerned with how many other messages patients are receiving,” Johnson said. “Over-messaging is a problem that’s been ignored by categorical engagement companies.”

A proactive messaging service provider, Relatient doesn’t require login or action on the part of the patient. “We believe messaging should be proactive so our focus is on reaching 100 percent of patients rather than those who opt in,” he said. Their integrative model means all messages and reminders can be consolidated. Providers are easily able to gauge response rates to messages and financial impact in real time.

Patients as Consumers

Johnson said this type of model is especially effective as providers fight to attract and retain new customers.

“I tell providers that healthcare needs to become as noisy and commercialized as other consumer-driven organizations,” he said. “You get two to five emails from an airline after booking a ticket thanking you for your for business, telling you what to expect, and providing information on delays. There’s such a high level of communication that consumers expect. As healthcare providers, we need to understand this mindset is already in place … and treating patients like consumers is falling in line with what they expect.”

Tahir said, the evolution has been spurred on by patients who better understand healthcare, thanks to online research and tools unavailable to previous generations.

“There’s an increasing desire on the part of patients to be part of decision making and care planning,” Tahir said. “Shared decision making is a key area of focus, and it’s been found both locally and nationally that by better engaging and satisfying patients, we can start to transform how we effectively implement a care plan and meet individual goals.”



Article from Electronic Health Reporter: “What is Patient Engagement: Health IT Leaders Define the Term”


Saint Thomas Medical Partners


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