Patient engagement in healthcare is a concept that many healthcare professionals and even patients did not start to prioritize until very recently. With the advancement of literacy in many other fields such as technological literacy and financial literacy, the need for health literacy made itself known.
As much as the healthcare and medical fields continue to advance, all of these progressions would be meaningless if the industry cannot bring patients along and properly engage them. There is a need for patients to not only understand but participate in their healthcare and the systems that go into it. That is what patient engagement is all about.
What is Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement is an all-encompassing strategy that seeks to educate and integrate patients into the details of their healthcare. The purpose of patient engagement is to make healthcare a collaborative process. And ensure that patients are playing an active role in their health, rather than just reacting to it.
Research has revealed that there isn’t one quick-fix strategy for patient engagement. Rather, each patient requires a tailor-made strategy that implements the best patient engagement strategies that are relevant to them and their needs. Patient engagement is not a one-time endeavor but a series of practices and behaviors that are cultivated between healthcare providers and practitioners and their patients.
A patient engagement strategy involves stimulating the patient in different areas to create an awareness of their healthcare needs and the role they play in meeting those needs. In many cases, patients only react to their health, rather than consciously cultivating it. This leads to patients unconsciously doing things that are counterproductive to their health, simply because they do not know any better.
When patient engagement is prioritized, healthcare becomes a collaborative journey, rather than a series of ‘fix-it’ visits to the hospital whenever something is wrong. The rise in self-care cultures such as mental health awareness, the popularity of activities like yoga, and the modern desire to eat natural or healthy is beneficial to patient engagement as patients are already being encouraged to take their health into their hands outside of the walls of their healthcare provider’s office.
Healthcare workers need to capitalize on the current interest in wellness to boost patient engagement in healthcare and ensure. The patients are proactive about health management and whatever conditions they are facing.
Patient activation is a facet of patient engagement. The idea of patient activation is to equip patients with the knowledge and skills to actively participate in their health. An activated patient is knowledgeable and competent enough to make independent decisions about their health and wellness.
Activated patients can modify their habits and behaviors for the sake of their health without cajoling or convincing by their healthcare providers because they understand the need to do so. Patient activation is a marker of how effective a patient engagement strategy is. it is not the only method of patient engagement as the strategy should also involve systems that make practitioners more open and willing to discuss things with their patients.
When a patient is activated, they can:
- Make informed choices about their health.
- Self-treat minor health issues.
- Play active roles in health-involved decision-making.
- Filter through healthcare practices for the ones most relevant to them.
- Make smart choices about healthcare providers and facilities, and many more.
Benefits of patient engagement
Patient engagement in healthcare has countless benefits, both to the patients and the healthcare industry at large. Some of these include:
- With patient engagement, more individuals become informed and educated about their health needs and requirements. This leads to an overall more health-literate society.
- Patient engagement reduces the stigma around healthcare and leads to more people engaging actively with their healthcare providers.
- Patient engagement leads to individuals who prioritize their health, which leads to a reduction in sudden health issues. When patients are activated, it is less likely that they unconsciously make decisions that deteriorate their health.
- Patient engagement leads to more informed patients. This makes it easier for healthcare providers to make decisions with patients and improves patient retention among providers.
- When patients are activated, healthcare becomes more efficient as both the patient and the healthcare provider are playing active roles in solving the problem. Patients have not confused or disinterested. Rather, they actively participate in their health.
Steps to Take to Foster Patient Engagement
The goal of patient engagement is to improve the overall health of a patient. When a patient is properly engaged, it also makes the work of their healthcare provider easier. Engaged patients work with their providers, not against them. Patient engagement also reduces the stigma and fear that some people associate with healthcare as it pulls the curtain back.
Here have some practices that can implemented (and modified) to improve patient engagement in healthcare:
Proper communication with patients
This is the most critical aspect of patient engagement. In the world today, all industries must shift to a consumer-oriented method of working if they want to keep their customers. The healthcare industry is no different from its patients.
Healthcare interactions need to highly personalized and interactive with a lot of communication. This puts patients at ease and makes them feel included and important. Healthcare is a very personal field. So patients need to feel like they can voice whatever concerns or questions they may have.
It then falls on the healthcare provider to ensure. They cultivate a system of open and honest communication with the patient. This may include starting up new communication systems that let patients share their thoughts and input on their conditions. This also involves keeping patients involved at every step of healthy interaction and responsive to their needs.
Patient education is the next big pillar of patient engagement as an uneducated patient is an unhelpful one. When patients are fully educated, not only on their health but on the systems put in place to care for their health. Then they will more likely to engage with it meaningfully.
Patient education goes past just handing out pamphlets to patients in hospital waiting rooms. And patient education similarly is not about teaching patients medical terms. Rather, patient education involves the process of keeping patients completely updated. And on the progress, updates, and setbacks of their health journey.
Patient education also involves letting patients in on the healthcare systems in place. This means educating them on insurance. The system of operations of your facility or organization, and more. Patients require transparency to build trust.
Shared decision making
Letting a patient in on the decision-making process for their health forces them to take it into their own hands and further contend with it afterward. When a patient makes their own choices for their health, they feel more obligated to manage those choices and cultivate habits that foster those choices.
Shared decision-making is essential to a good patient engagement strategy as at the heart of patient engagement is a desire to see patients taking their health into their hands and treating it delicately. Medical professionals should never make choices for patients. Rather, they should equip their patients with the knowledge they need to play a part in the making of those choices.
Making use of technology
Technology has made it incredibly easy to communicate with patients and provide for them. A good patient engagement strategy should find ways to implement technology into it. This is because most people have used to having immediate access to things through the internet. Healthcare should one of those things.
Technology can include creating websites and blogs for patient education and activating or creating apps. That patients can use to form routines or habits around their health. With technology, patients can set up their own systems for personal healthcare and wellness which leads to increased awareness of their role in healthcare.
Things like setting reminders for medication or apps that can used to track symptoms teach patients to aware of their health needs. And provide a means for engagement with these needs. Technology also makes it easier to communicate with patients, whether it is through calls, text messages, emails, or other forms of correspondence.
Including all areas of a patient’s health in the engagement strategy helps the patient understand how different areas of their health co-exist. When developing a patient engagement strategy. It should include healthcare providers like pharmacists, nutritionists, mental health providers, physicians, and others.
Patients should understand how all these aspects of their health interact. He should able to engage with each of these individually and collectively. This way, they will more informed when making a decision that affects multiple areas of concern for them.
Patient engagement in healthcare is founded on respect for the patient and a deep desire to see them participate in their health. Patient engagement should aimed at increasing health awareness, helping patients meet their needs, making healthcare accessible. And collaborative, encouraging patients to incorporate healthy habits into their routines for long-term health.