Power patient engagement with technology

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The more engaged patients are in managing their own care, the better their health outcomes and more positive their experience. Research shows smart patient engagement strategies can also lower costs. But engaging patients is often easier said than done. Here are 10 tips for putting technology to work to achieve your engagement goals.

Use mobile devices to display and zoom in on diagnostic images to more precisely describe injuries and illnesses to patients and their families – in the exam room or the ER. This promotes informed decision-making and higher patient satisfaction.

2. Brighten up the bedside.

Tablets or virtual clients near the bed offer prime opportunities to enhance the inpatient experience. Patients can access everything from health data to educational materials and discharge instructions, and order meals, email, play games, listen to music, and watch movies.

Streamline on-demand access to health data and providers anywhere, anytime. The easier it is for patients to securely view data, ask questions, express concerns, or share updates, the greater responsibility they will take for their own care.

Make it easy for patients to communicate with their care teams. Accustomed to managing their lives through texts, email, Skype, FaceTime, and other digital channels, they expect to interact with health providers the same way. Improve your responsiveness and strengthen patient-physician relationships by keeping in touch through email, secure two-way messaging, and video chats or virtual visits.

5. Present the big picture.

To be part of their own care team, patients need access to comprehensive data. This requires ensuring that physicians, laboratories, pharmacies, and others can securely share up-to-date data. It also means integrating patient-provided information from wearable fitness devices and health and wellness apps. Consolidating all this information into a single, HIPAA-compliant, patient-friendly format supports better collaboration with care providers.

Remotely monitor patient progress and health post-discharge. Wearable sensors and telehealth follow-up programs using smartphones, tablets, or desktops can reduce patient readmission rates, improve outcomes, and empower patients to engage in healthier, safer behaviors.

7. Put some zip in your patient portal.

Create an indispensable, interactive go-to tool that enables patients to: 1) schedule an appointment, refill a prescription, get a referral, or pay a bill; 2) access records, test results, and physician’s notes or communicate with care providers; and 3) submit information, whether it’s preregistering for an exam or updating health data.

8. Remember that portals work both ways.

Provide post-visit care summaries, post-discharge care management instructions, and educational materials patients can access through a secure portal. Use automated texts and/or personalized emails to send appointment, immunization, or medication reminders, as well as invitations to view new material. This approach boosts medication and care plan adherence, promotes self-care, and raises health literacy.

9. Broadcast your engagement options.

Just because you build a patient portal doesn’t mean they’ll come. Make sure your frontline staff and clinicians emphasize the portal’s benefits and continuously educate patients about using it. Also, frequently remind patients about communicating via email, secure messaging, video, and beyond – and positively reinforce their use with timely responses.

Regularly survey patients (technology makes it easy!) to gauge your success. Encourage clinicians and support staff to discuss engagement efforts with patients as much as possible. Celebrate your progress and identify where there’s room for improvement so you can course correct.