Healthcare // Patient Tools
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3/17/2014
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Alison Diana
Alison Diana
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Engage Patients: 16 Creative Healthcare Strategies

Hospitals can go beyond Meaningful Use requirements to make patients happier and healthier and the bottom line better. Consider these ideas.
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(Source: Clear River/Flickr)
(Source: Clear River/Flickr)

Healthcare professionals on a quest to improve patient engagement solely to meet Meaningful Use mandates miss an opportunity to improve consumers' health and their bottom line in lots of other ways.

In 2013, the government began penalizing hospitals based on readmission rates. Penalties and the reasons for these fines will increase over the next few years. Value-based payments encourage providers to embrace patient engagement, too.

But government regulations can go only so far. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), which includes 32 questions across nine areas of a patient's stay, standardizes consumer ratings of care. Patients respond on topics such as pain management, nurse communication, and doctor communication. Many patients are ignorant of why they're in the hospital, the reasons for their prescriptions, or underlying conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. People with chronic conditions take, on average, only half the prescribed dose of their medications, and 50% don't follow medical advice.

When medical professionals spend more time with patients, their health improves. When a doctor tells a patient to stop smoking, for instance, the patient is 30% more likely to do so. But chronic conditions account for 75% of healthcare costs, with obesity and diabetes dominating the medical landscape. Practitioners are hard pressed to find time for more tasks.

Web and mobile technologies are removing some of those time constraints from busy practices, automating tasks while creating a personal touch that improves patients' lives. Patients feel special and appreciated when they believe that they are being saved time or money, or that the hospital makes the effort to ensure their comfort. Some hospitals have a "no ignore" rule, for example, that mandates nobody passes a room with a nurse's light lit without going in to see what the patient wants. Anybody can grab an extra blanket or ice chips, and the patient is comforted by the immediate attention.

Communication is a critical component of engagement, whether it's during a hospital stay or with healthcare providers. In fact, 82% of consumers want access to medical records, 77% wish to book appointments online, 76% prefer to renew prescriptions electronically, and 74% would like to receive appointment reminders via email or text, a 2013 Accenture study found.

As a direct result of adopting electronic communications, several healthcare providers in the study saw engagement increase. Using surveys and anecdotal evidence, practices determined patients preferred email and online access to more traditional methods of communication. In addition, no-shows decreased, so offices could reschedule other patients or spend more time with those in the office.

Though the majority of consumers want to view their records electronically, only about one-third currently track their diet, exercise, or vitals using apps or personal health monitors. As more providers explore using these tools, especially among patients with chronic conditions, that number is expected to grow, especially if they are integrated with electronic health records or dashboards for easier review.

There are many ways to engage patients that can improve their health and help your medical establishment run more smoothly, too. Click through our slideshow for tips that range from providing patients with tablets to serving bilingual consumers.

Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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CherylG458
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CherylG458,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/24/2014 | 5:43:54 PM
great suggestions Alison - Thank you!
The slideshow offered many wonderful suggestions to decrease admissions.  Thanks.

 
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
3/18/2014 | 8:48:11 PM
Re: The Opposite of Engagement
That cartoon rings so true for me. Without fail, I wait at least a half hour past my appointment time at my doctor's office every time. If I didn't like my doctor as much as I do, I'd never tolerate it.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Ninja
3/17/2014 | 6:23:18 PM
Re: The Opposite of Engagement
@Thomas, @Alison I couldn't agree more, and today, when we have access to a lot more information, including online reviews, we can check for certain qualities in the doctor that are important to us before scheduling an appointment. Still, I find that doctors fail to value their patients' time and really wish this were a reality: 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
3/17/2014 | 5:32:04 PM
Re: The Opposite of Engagement
It's true, Thomas. That said, patient engagement solutions give practices new ways to differentiate themselves further from other local facilities. Bringing comfort, control, or convenience typically benefit the provider and the patient, so both parties win. 
Thomas (Tom)S021
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Thomas (Tom)S021,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 1:45:44 PM
Re: The Opposite of Engagement
@Alison Thanks for the article and the story.

Doctors need to understand two things: 1) their patient-facing employees are their brand (a.k.a., practice); and, 2) treat patients like customers.

In the age of the internet and social media, doctors with poor patients skills or unfriendly staff will lose patients, and potentially the practice they've worked so hard to build.

 

http://www.insightsfromanalytics.com/blog/?Tag=patient+relationship+marketing

 

 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
3/17/2014 | 10:00:41 AM
The Opposite of Engagement
My family recently had an experience that was the opposite of what many healthcare providers are now focusing on. Having heard our daughter might need a minimal procedure we were anxious to schedule it, yet the person responsible for scheduling did not return my phone calls for four days. When she finally called back, I overheard her say "Now I have to deal with this one." Between that comment and her brusque manner, our faith in the doctor was negated by unease in his staff -- the team we no doubt would be in touch with post-procedure. We'd already scheduled a second opinion. That doctor is now in charge of our daughter's care and I shared our experience with the first doctor's staff on several physician-grading sites. (He is terrific but that last experience with his staff was the pinnacle of a pattern of ongoing rudeness.)

It's sad that physicians spend so much time and money to become doctors and set up practices, only to have their reputations destroyed by rude staff that demonstrate their lack of caring for patients. In that way alone healthcare providers start on the path to engaging patients.
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