The Institute for Healthcare Improvement describes patient engagement as “actions that people take for their health and to benefit from care.” Patient engagement by its nature allows patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers to make more informed decisions and adopt behaviors that facilitate improved health outcomes.
The importance of patient engagement has been widely researched, and evidence supports its significance in lowering cost and improving patient outcomes. While medical providers have long understood this value, the concept of patient engagement has changed significantly with the onset of technologies designed to improve it. Here are four ways technology has improved patient engagement:
1. Data Access via the Cloud
When providers are using cloud-based systems, everybody, including patients, has anytime, anywhere access to the most relevant, up-to-date information about their health. These systems give patients tools to interact with technology and providers in a way that adds value.
Studies show that when asked to fill out information electronically, patients fill out 40% more than is needed because they feel that their data will be used effectively. Doctors are able to instantly access and easily categorize that information to deliver relevant and personalized responses to each patient and his or her specific issues.
2. Provider/Patient Communication
Patient engagement tools including patient portals, HIPAA-compliant email services, and others have allowed patients to communicate with their physicians in a manner and time that work best for them. Telehealth and remote monitoring tools have allowed providers to treat patients who may not be able to otherwise come into their office, such as elderly or rural patients.
It has also been found that patients ask pointed and clear questions that speak to their issues when communicating directly with a provider through technology. Additionally, it takes providers less time to respond to patients through these technologies than to process and route incoming calls. Patients have appreciated direct and quick communication with their providers between appointments when issues are often arising.
3. Trust & Accuracy
Consumers are becoming more trusting of putting their healthcare information online, often sharing more with technology than they do with their providers. Data analytics tools allow systems to analyze and process information submitted online to provide a more personalized and accurate assessment of a patient’s health, which further instills their trust.
4. Patient Awareness and Use
As patients continue to entrust technology with their PHI, they also trust the Internet to provide on-demand health information. With that information patients are engaging more in their care. Below are statistics from Google and Pew Research Center that support the impact technology is having on patient engagement:
- 1 in 20 Google searches is for health-related information
- 80 percent of Internet users seek online health information
- 66 percent of Internet users look online for information about a specific disease or medical problem
MHealth apps and wearables are part of the future of patient engagement. With the use of personal devices increasing and the development of mHealth applications on the rise, patient engagement platforms are becoming more accessible. These advancements increase patient awareness of health concerns, maintains their interest, and helps physicians track their progress.
No matter the type of engagement or the tools used to facilitate it, the evidence suggests that patients who are actively involved in their health and care achieve better outcomes and have lower costs than those who are not. For these reasons patient engagement has become a large factor as healthcare organizations work to advance care, reduce cost, and improve patient experience.
What steps are you taking to further engage your patients? How is technology helping?