Knowledge Expansion

Core tenets of effective patient engagement in medical practices

Insight Article

Patient Engagement

Patient Care Technology

Colleen Kinlund
Monica Bolbjerg MD
Many patients leave medical office visits lacking sufficient tools or knowledge to effectively manage their health. Without a link to reconnect patients with their healthcare providers after a visit, improved patient outcomes are often stymied. Medical practices, in turn, bear the workflow and financial implications of interrupted patient progress, prolonged treatment plans and diminished patient satisfaction.
 
Patient engagement applications have emerged as a means to help practices bridge the patient and provider divide between visits. Electronic engagement solutions enhance patient access, convenience and continuity of care, aimed at improving patient outcomes and experience. Unfortunately, poor adoption rates have impeded the success of some engagement platforms. Limited functionality, lack of customization and software sprawl represent a few of the challenges that practices must overcome to effectively drive engagement.
 
Today’s patient engagement platforms are increasingly offering all-in-one solutions that are well integrated with medical practice EHRs and can achieve broad use among patients. 

Use cases: Driving patient engagement with technology

Engagement applications empower patients in self-guided care before and after office visits. Patients benefit from increased knowledge of and involvement in their care plan from the convenience of home.
 
Practices benefit from outsourcing many of the tasks associated with patient onboarding and follow-up, improving practice workflow through the capture of patient-generated data. Engagement platforms can enable patients to engage in:
  • Online scheduling, registration and collections
  • Appointment check-in from home or via onsite devices
  • Pre-procedure preparation
  • Post-procedure outcome monitoring
  • Telehealth or video calls
  • Remote patient monitoring and goal tracking
  • Secure text and email messaging
The most efficient engagement applications keep patients in step with providers, by delivering tailored tools and information that target patients can access at home. This level of engagement is particularly useful among chronic condition patient populations and within procedural specialty settings where it is critical to document patient flow before, during and after procedures.
 
Surgical specialty practices, which tend to have specific and important pre- and post-procedure instructions to share with patients, can automate the delivery of vital information via engagement platforms. Pain levels documented after surgery by patients at home, for example, can alert physicians to out-of-range readings and detect patients at risk for infections. Practices can similarly automate bulk communications such as appointment and collections reminders via engagement applications. 

Core tenets of patient engagement success

Implement solutions that appeal to providers as well as patients

For adoption to succeed, engagement platforms must meet the needs of both clinicians and patients. Ideally, patients gain access to a unified, mobile-driven solution that integrates with clinicians’ existing EHR. Solutions should support physician workflow by allowing the patient to engage where unnecessary provider tasks can be avoided. White label solutions give ownership to practice staff and enhance the trust of the patient.

Make it easy for practice staff to get started

Engagement applications should be tailored to support existing practice protocol. Keep clinicians working in their native environment and source pertinent patient-provided data from the engagement application into the EHR. Practices should adopt a platform with flexibility to best support each department. Roll out solutions department by department — via a single pilot program where all functionality is implemented — or feature by feature organization wide. Integrate key functionality with back-end systems and automate as much as possible. Triage patient needs to make the most effective use of practice resources.

Focus on the patient experience

For engagement applications to succeed it is imperative that patients feel like active participants. Engagement solutions should not only serve as a data repository but also enable patients to truly interact during their care journey. Let patients act and edit in the system — not just view. Platforms must offer patients a broader array of communication channels, information they can use between visits and an opportunity to broaden provider insight into health indicators at home, between visits. Set up a support team to help patients with technical problems.

Overcoming adoption challenges

Common challenges that medical practices encounter when implementing a patient engagement solution include:
  • Identifying a single-source solution. Limited platform features can lead to solution sprawl as practices attempt to support various engagement efforts. Practice staff should seek out an engagement partner that offers broad functionality in a single, unified solution to alleviate implementation burdens and patient confusion.
  • Establishing EHR integration. While some EHR vendors are reluctant to share data, regulatory gains in API access enablement are making new integrations possible across a broader spectrum of systems. Identify an engagement solution provider that will work with your EHR vendor to establish a bridge between platforms.
  • Fostering staff buy-in. Front-office staff may be hesitant to adopt engagement solutions that will automate their job duties. Involve staff in automation efforts and emphasize ways the technology can free up staff to do other jobs more effectively. Staff buy-in is a must for patient buy-in.
  • Generating patient interest. Convenience is vital to patient engagement. Implement a mobile-forward solution to reach patients where they are. Personalize communications and notifications based on patient case specifics. Pare down patient-generated data to what is essential to avoid cumbersome workflows and eliminate redundancies in data entry.
Avoid a rushed rollout that only meets a portion of patient and provider needs. Waiting to go to market with a comprehensive patient engagement application and strategy will increase the odds of patients and clinicians sticking with the platform.
 
As population-based payment models such as the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative seek a better way to engage patients and their circle of care, comprehensive patient engagement platforms hold true promise for practices. Effective patient engagement applications enable medical practices to meet the goals of record sharing with patients and capturing post-visit outcome data that impacts quality reporting under value-based care. As healthcare consumerism evolves, these platforms will play a pivotal role in streamlining practice workflows while improving patient satisfaction and outcomes.

About the Authors

Colleen Kinlund
Colleen Kinlund
Chief Operating Officer BoulderCentre for Orthopedics & Spine Boulder, Colo.

Colleen Kinlund is COO of BoulderCentre for Orthopedics & Spine, headquartered in Boulder, CO. Mrs. Kinlund can be reached at colleen@bouldercentre.com.


Monica Bolbjerg
Monica Bolbjerg MD
Chairman, CEO and Founder Qure4u Bradenton, Fla.

Monica Bolbjerg MD is the co-founder and CEO of Qure4u, headquartered in Bradenton, FL. Dr. Bolbjerg can be reached at monica@qure4u.com.

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