Many healthcare providers in the U.S. wish their patients would take more accountability for managing their health. According to a West survey, 96 percent of providers feel frustrated when patients do not actively participate in their own healthcare. In a perfect world, every patient would follow their care plan exactly as instructed after leaving their doctor’s office. However, as physicians know, this isn’t always as easy as it seems. Although it is frustrating for healthcare providers to see patients not heeding advice or doing what is necessary to manage their health after providers have spent time examining them, answering questions and prescribing treatments, healthcare providers should not be discouraged. Why? Because providers have opportunities (and tools) to impact behaviors and outcomes by connecting with patients and supporting them between visits at home and in their daily lives. In fact, most healthcare teams have technology in place right now that they can use to create and deliver outreach campaigns to engage patients and activate them to better manage their health. The key is for healthcare providers to maximize use of their patient engagement technology.
There are many different reasons why patients do not adhere to care plans. For some patients the issue might be related to medication. Forgetting to fill prescriptions and not understanding how and when to take medications are common problems. Other patients might be confused about how to manage chronic conditions. Still others may lack motivation to quit smoking, exercise, follow a prescribed diet or make other lifestyle changes. Whatever obstacles patients face, healthcare teams can address them with engagement communications. The solution is to leverage technology-enabled communications to educate, engage and activate patients.
To better understand how providers can use engagement communications to encourage patients to follow care plans, consider how a healthcare team might provide ongoing support to a patient with diabetes. First, the healthcare team would use EHR data to identify that the patient has diabetes and would benefit from receiving disease management communications. The healthcare team could then use technology to schedule a series of automated messages that might include:
- A voice message to alert the patient when they need to schedule an A1c draw, or make an appointment for a foot and eye exam.
- Daily text message prompts that ask patients to report their blood glucose readings so their healthcare team can monitor their progress remotely.
- A monthly email with healthy eating tips and diabetes-friendly recipes.
- Regular reminders and encouragement to participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
- Survey check-ins that require the patient to answer questions about medication use, disease-specific symptoms and other topics that can help the healthcare team identify potential issues.
Patients with diabetes are the perfect candidates for receiving engagement communications because diabetes is a chronic condition that is impacted heavily by patient behavior. If providers can get patients to adopt healthy habits, like eating balanced meals, exercising regularly, and visiting their physician for routine screenings, health outcomes can be greatly improved. In addition to diabetes, this is true for many other chronic conditions.
Once a provider develops an engagement campaign for managing diabetes, or any other chronic condition, it can be applied to all patients across a practice that share that same condition. This mass approach to communication is essential because healthcare teams do not have the time to manually create and send a series of messages to every single patient. However, they can personalize existing engagement messages and schedule them to be delivered automatically to patients. The automation ensures that important communications aren’t forgotten and that patients receive a consistent communication stream to keep them engaged, all without staff having to manually keep track of when to send messages. Providers can not only customize the timing of messages, but also the delivery method (text, voice message, or email) so that each patient receives communications that are relevant and useful to them. The result is targeted support on a mass scale.
One of the reasons engagement communications are effective is because patients are receptive to them. Not only do patients welcome regular communication and support from their healthcare team, many expect it. West’s survey revealed that patients tend to assign a lot of responsibility for their own health outcomes to providers. Survey responses showed that 83 percent of Americans hold their healthcare providers responsible for their well-being. Patients also said they would like to see providers be less reactive about treating illnesses and demonstrate greater accountability by focusing more on preventing health issues. Patients feel that if providers work to educate, encourage, remind and push them to make healthier choices, then they would be more prepared and likely to take steps to maintain their own health.
It takes effort from both patients and providers to achieve the best health outcomes. Providers that are looking for a way to increase engagement and influence patient behavious and health outcomes already have a solution in place if they are using engagement technology to send patients appointment reminders. By expanding how patient engagement technology is used, providers have opportunities to activate patients and really create behavior changes and accountability. The byproduct of this improved engagement is better adherence to treatment plans and healthier patients.