Why All the Talk about Patient Engagement? Because It’s Happening

Over the past 15 years, I’ve seen a trend or two come into the healthcare industry landscape. The latest trend across both healthcare providers and technology service providers is developing and deploying new solutions aimed at improving patient engagement. Why? (and more importantly is this just a passing fad or is there some reason to believe this will become mainstream?)

The reason is simple: there is ample evidence to support the fact that a patient who is involved in managing their own care, is engaged in regular dialog with their providers about their care and choices for receiving care directly, impacts the quality of outcomes. For example: the diabetic patient who takes their insulin and watches their diet closely tends to live a longer, healthier life than those patients who don’t follow doctors’ orders…and costs less to care for over that life span.

With global policy changes driving care delivery from traditional fee-for-service to value based care, the focus for providers is directed towards improving patient outcomes, and coordinating care with their peers and patients. Now, all of a sudden, the patient outcome matters and is tied to reimbursements as well as patient satisfaction with the services rendered. In short, doing what works is increasingly how providers are now being measured and paid.*

How does all this relate to patient engagement? The goals for value based care delivery as outlined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) include not only improving the way we pay doctors, but also improving and innovating in care delivery and sharing information more broadly with providers, patients, and others to support better decisions and maintain security of the patient data.*

This is where technology comes into play – or can come into play – if it is used the right way. Here are three examples of how this technology can actually help:

  • There is nothing more frustrating for a patient than coming to a hospital and not knowing where to go or who to speak with for help. New patient engagement solutions are leveraging mobile devices and applications to provide patients with information about their care before they arrive – so they know where to go, who their provider team members are, and even when dinner will be served. These same mobile platforms are used at the patient bedside as a remote control for everything they need while in the hospital – care team directory, telemedicine calls with their doctor, ordering meals, wayfinding applications to find the nearest gift shop or chapel, and as a remote control for the TV or entertainment system in their room. These platforms are becoming the ultimate dashboard for patients, and providers. From what I see, patients like it as it gives them back a sense of control over their experience and their life while in the hospital. Happier patients lead to better outcomes.
  • Another idea taking hold is the ecosystem of content and application providers who create specialty content for various conditions. By utilizing a mobile 2-1, or tablet, at the patient bedside and adding all the educational and reference materials that the patient needs or wants to review at their fingertips, there is a more engaged and informed patient. Imagine a 10-year-old girl who has to visit the hospital for chemotherapy treatments and finds that her bedside tablet has specially designed applications and content made just for kids which explain things in terms she can understand and even make it fun to learn. This is what patient engagement is about – improving the experience and making it easy to use.
  • The final example is the burgeoning use of low cost mobile tablets which patients can take home after discharge. Patients may have forgotten what pills to take, when to take with food or not. Having a low cost tablet with all the information related to their care plan at the ready can be the difference between an urgent care episode in the ER and a quick scroll through the list of medications on their tablet. Imagine the young mother who just arrives home with her new baby – all the questions about breast feeding or diaper changing or sleeping patterns can be quickly accessed with a handy tablet in the home.

What impact is all this technology going to have on the administration staff? Probably more streamlined workflows, happier patients, and better outcomes. IT staff is satisfied that the data is all being securely protected via integrated solutions with encryption and secure processes for sharing data on patient room screens. Payers will be glad to see patient satisfaction scores improve, length of stays declining and reimbursements at peak levels.

The bottom line is that we’re seeing a new model of care delivery take shape before our eyes. Right now, there are mainstream healthcare organizations already in the early adopter stage and testing these methods. It’s happening at an accelerated rate and I expect to see even more deployments in the next nine months. Are you working on one?