Five Rules for Web-based Patient Engagement That Works

One of the most important emerging competencies of healthcare organizations is their ability to engage patients before or after acute episodes of care and the times between in-person visits. With everything from value-based reimbursements to chronic care management CPT codes now specifically calling out patient engagement as a larger financial factor, old, fractured, time-consuming models are giving way to health care technology that makes patient engagement more time and cost efficient. However, there are many approaches to address patient engagement. How do you ensure you have one that works for your organization and your patients?

Rule 1: If you want them to engage, you have to be in on it too.
Patient engagement doesn't mean give them a portal. Portal usage rates hover somewhere in the low single digits. Patient engagement that works has be interwoven with your care delivery processes. If it’s tacked as an afterthought, they’ll sense it. And it won’t work. On the other hand if they see that you value it, they’ll value it too.

Rule 2: Simple and easy wins the day, for both them and you.
For your patients, be sure to cut out as many potential points of failure as possible. Invite them to sign up, proactively reach out when you want to hear from them, and keep the experience simple and painless. For you and your team, make sure your platform for managing and engaging your patients supports low-friction teamwork, automatic issue identification, issue triaging, and easy messaging back to your patients.

Rule 3: Don't expect 100% participation. Instead think 80/20.
Don't let perfect participation be the enemy of very good participation. Not every one of your patients will engage with you. That’s a fact. But by using technologies like email, web-based tools, and smartphones, web-based patient engagement efforts will have the best shot at wide usage. Web-based patient engagement isn’t a silver bullet but it can be a powerful arrow in your quiver.

Rule 4: Address the whole patient, not just one health event
Web-based patient engagement not only allows you to efficiently engage your patients - it helps you treat the whole patient. By enabling more frequent communication, you can provide an engagement experience that addresses physical, emotional, and mental needs, ensuring a holistic approach to health. Patient engagement that works aims to activate patients in their own self-management while also helping your organization improve outcomes and reduce avoidable utilization of services.

Rule 5: Provide quality, engaging content
Information about health conditions is more accessible than ever. The reality is you won’t be able to stop your patients from googling their health condition. With patient engagement, you have the opportunity to be a go-to source for relevant, trustworthy health information. The problem is creating and curating that content is time-consuming. Any platform or partner should provide engagement content “out of the box” and ready for use. Be sure the content has been created and vetted by clinical experts in accordance with treatment standards and nationally-recognized protocols of care.

Web-based patient engagement is a competency necessary to address the needs of both healthcare organizations and the patients they serve. The level of interaction provided by this method is what patients have come to expect in their ever-connected lifestyles and healthcare organizations that are slow to adapt will find themselves at a productivity and financial crossroads. 

Note: This is my submission for the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival on the future of patient engagement.