Female doctor sharing data with patient using tablet
HealthJanuary 21, 2019

Three steps to jump start your patient engagement initiative

A patient engagement strategy can help increase satisfaction and health outcomes if it is thoughtfully defined, planned, and implemented by healthcare organizations.

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 first in a series of three articles about the steps you can take to make your patient engagement initiative successful. The next two articles will focus on implementation tips and the positive outcomes for which you can aim.

Patient engagement presents a vital opportunity to build trust between patients and clinicians, improve the patient experience and satisfaction, and reduce costs and unwanted clinical variability. A 2018 EY survey of patients, physicians, and healthcare executives in the United States found that patients want to use everyday technology to connect with their doctors — 61 percent would share more information digitally if it reduced wait times while 55 percent would share more if it reduced costs.

The right time to focus on patient engagement

Several factors make this the right moment to focus on patient engagement.

First, patients want to get more value from their interactions with clinicians, especially as deductibles rise. These patients are becoming more motivated to improve their own health.

Second, the rise of technology in our daily lives has raised patients’ expectations on interactions with their clinicians. Patients expect 24/7 access through intuitive digital experiences.

Third, providers agree that patient education does not translate automatically to patient engagement. Providing a handout to a patient at the end of an office visit does not automatically produce an informed patient.

Lastly, patient engagement cuts across the continuum of care. It involves more than implementing a few new digital initiatives; instead, patient engagement calls for a complete rethinking of how providers connect with their patients, wherever they are. It requires a true commitment to change behaviors.

Step 1: Identify your engagement team

Healthcare leaders need buy-in and participation from many constituencies — patients, families and care supporters, the medical team, IT, marketing, finance, operations, and the C-suite.

Step 2: Set engagement goals

Tailoring patient engagement to a specific organization requires extensive discussion and thought about its goals. What are the desired outcomes? What does success look like?

  • Think about the big-picture
  • Get down to the basics
  • Get C-suite buy-in

Step 3: Define your process

You will need to push for behavioral change and changes to workflow across the organization. Consider the following steps when defining the process that’s right for the organization:

  • Consider the right technologies
  • The pros and cons of RFPs
  • Experience in working with provider groups
  • Integrating with other platforms


Read the next two articles in this series:
Three keys to implementing successful patient engagement strategies
Seven outcomes of successful patient engagement strategies


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