Patient engagement means the patient is doing more than just popping in for yearly checkups and going home without another thought toward their health.
It means transforming from a passive consumer into an active member of the team devoted to promoting health.
Educating Patients Leads to Compliance
The first step to patient engagement is education.
We know doctors and healthcare professionals are busy, facing mountains of paperwork and seemingly endless streams of patients. The shortage of healthcare professionals is also real.
However, taking the time to educate the patient on their condition can save them from coming back to your office next week or next month with exacerbated medical issues. Don’t just tell them to “stretch their wrist three times a day.” That information is easily filed away alongside “drink eight glasses of water” and “don’t go swimming after you eat.”
Instead, show the patient a diagram of the wrist on a nearby monitor or medical computer, and point out how tendon gliding can alleviate some of the symptoms, and why it works. More importantly, tell them what can happen to the tendons if they don’t do the recommended stretches.
Help Patients Educate Themselves
Another way to save time and increase patient compliance and education is to offer a bedside or in-room medical computer terminal that the patient has limited access to. It could even be the terminal that’s already in the room, with a patient-specific login.
From it, the patient could pull up their new prescriptions and learn how often they have to take their medication. They could remind themselves how to take it: with water, with food, or only in the morning.
The patient could even access information on what the drug does and how it helps. Again, “take this pill because I said so” is never going to sink in like “take this pill so your veins don’t get so small you can’t move blood around your body anymore.”
You could use such a terminal to give the patient all sorts of useful information – what food to eat, what beverages to stay away from, how often they need to take a walk around the facility. This last one could come with an alarm or reminder.
You could even show them a video or animated graphic that visually outlines a procedure they’re either considering or about to undergo.
This doesn’t only have to be available bedside, either. For a situation like a doctor’s office, a kiosk or medical tablet in the waiting room could allow patients to log in and learn all of this information as well.
Stay in Touch to Stop Unnecessary Appointments
The next step is communication.
When the patient knows “there are no stupid questions,” they’ll be far more likely to come to you when they have a healthcare problem.
And, if you’re active on social media, have a text help or nursing line, or regularly share your email with your patients, they’ll also reach out to you remotely with small matters instead of either ignoring them (which is bad for their health) or scheduling an unnecessary appointment (which eats time and resources for all involved).
Many providers and offices use patient portals, an automated system that allows patients to contact their doctor or doctor’s office through a safe, secure channel.
Leveraging Communication Technology
Think of that bedside medical computer or medical monitor from the example earlier in this article. Not only could it be used for convenient patient education, but also to facilitate communication.
Imagine a patient using the medical computer to call the nurse’s station, and instead of a beeping light or buzzing speaker the nurse can actually see the patient face-to-face and address their concerns without leaving the desk. Not only will the patient feel more comfortable knowing they have that kind of access, but it could increase efficiency across the board.
Instead of running back and forth between rooms to find out what’s the matter when a patient rings, one nurse could be in charge of this form of communication with every room.
That triage nurse could then dispatch nurses where they’re most needed, saving them time and energy that could be best spent somewhere else.
Patient Satisfaction Strengthens Patient Engagement
This is where patient satisfaction ties in with patient engagement: patients are more likely to partner with their doctor and medical team if they are happy.
Studies and surveys have shown that patients who score higher on satisfaction and engagement metrics like the “Patient Activation Measure” are “significantly more likely than people who score lower to engage in preventive behavior such as regular check-ups, screenings, and immunizations.”
It’s basic human psychology — we disregard the advice and opinions of people we don’t like. It’s the basis for most of the unrest on social media.
So, imagine a patient who feels they’ve had a horrible experience at the hospital. They’re angry at the doctor, angry at the nurses, and they want to leave. Then, the doctor lets them know they can’t eat red meat anymore, or that they should get some exercise, or instructs them how and when to change the bandages, there’s a good chance the patient isn’t even listening anymore. Or, if they are listening, they’ve decided the doctor/staff/hospital is clearly a mess, and doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
This, in turn, leads to the patient not following the instructions, which can drastically affect their future health. The patient is not engaged, and, in fact, may be actively going against their own health because they’re angry or feeling ignored.
As you can see, patient satisfaction isn’t just about dollars and numbers — it directly affects the long-term health of the patient.
The Key to Patient Engagement
It takes both sides of the healthcare equation to make patient engagement a reality – patient participation and clinician support.
To find out more about how to leverage medical computers and tablets to improve patient outcomes you can contact Cybernet today.