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HealthJanuary 28, 2019

Three keys to implementing successful patient engagement strategies

A comprehensive patient engagement strategy is only as effective as its implementation.

By Pam Holt, RN, BSN, MOL
Pam Holt, RN, BSN, MOL, is operational consultant for patient engagement with Clinical Effectiveness at Wolters Kluwer, Health.

This is the second of a three-part series centered on the steps required to make a patient engagement initiative successful. The first article, Three Steps to Jumpstart Effective Patient Engagement Initiatives, focused on jumpstarting an initiative. The final article focuses on the seven positive patient engagement outcomes you can aim for.

Once you’ve agreed on a comprehensive patient engagement initiative, you must focus on implementation.

Many tech-based implementation phases have an explicit beginning and end. The project team executes a project plan, installs some new software, and — voilà — problem solved. But patient engagement initiatives require an ongoing commitment.

As noted in the first installment of this three-part series, an effective patient engagement strategy depends on fundamental changes in organizational behavior and continual process improvements. As an organization’s needs evolve, the solution must be optimized as new staff and patients come on board, technology changes, the regulatory environment evolves, and so forth.

Launching a patient engagement program is a bit like adopting a pet. The owner reaps many benefits, but it changes daily life. A comprehensive patient engagement system requires a commitment to new ways of communicating on a day-to-day basis.

Step 1: Setting the stage for engagement success

Success will depend on the effort and planning invested. While you might think implementation is largely about an effective project plan, the success of an initiative actually depends on persuading the many people who will be affected by this initiative of its value.

  • Build a cross-functional team
  • Appoint a champion
  • Assign a project planning or operations professional
  • Plan internal and external communications
  • Send an announcement from leadership

Step 2: Engagement planning and implementation

Patient engagement implementation works best with a decentralized approach. While the overall strategy is likely centralized, outcomes and objectives in each subgroup or practice area are different. Allow flexibility for each department, floor, clinic, or hospital to define its own successes.

  • Segment the organization into logical sub-groups
  • Meet with each team
  • Develop sub-group-specific project plans
  • Test concepts with patients
  • Deal with doubters
  • Leverage vendor experts
  • Test your approach

Step 3: Optimizing patient engagement processes

Once the teams have completed the initial rollout of their new patient engagement solutions, everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief. But the work has just begun. The organization has embarked on a new path. It will take time to fine-tune processes and to get the whole organization rowing in the same direction.

  • Recruit the vendor to help with utilization optimization
  • Reinforce the long-term gains
  • Plan for handling staff turnover
  • Engage with new patients
  • Reach out to existing patients
  • Appeal to different patients and their circle of care


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