Strong, widespread patient engagement is essential for helping organizations reach their value-based care goals. After all, research has shown that when patients are engaged in their care, they are more likely to have better outcomes, which can result in lower costs and higher payments under risk-based payment plans.
Improving patient engagement, however, continues to challenge organizations, especially when the patient returns home and has the potential to fall back into behaviors that negatively affect their outcome. Keeping patients motivated and helping them overcome care obstacles can consume care-management labor costs that constitutes a major portion of budgets.
The good news is that organizations have numerous opportunities to communicate and activate patients while they are at home. Patient portals are one aspect, but with smartphones being so widely adopted, even by seniors patients can easily be sent reminders and educational materials between appointments. Receiving outreach through their phone as well as questions about their health status and care can demonstrate to patients that the organization is focused on their outcomes and success year-round, not just while they are in a facility.
Mobile is Essential
Mobile is an increasingly important factor for boosting patient engagement between appointments considering that 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, including 46 percent of seniors, according to the Pew Research Center. Another study of mobile usage found mobile may be some patients’ only form of regular Internet access, which makes communicating through these devices even more crucial for engagement among all populations. Offering patient portal access through mobile is another option.
Another aspect of interacting and motivating patient engagement at home is capturing patient-reported outcomes (PROs) about their health status, symptoms, and quality of life. Patient-reported outcomes and associated patient-reported outcome measures are increasingly important to insurers in value-based care models because the measures demonstrate if patients are indeed perceiving any value from their care.
Such surveys, which could be captured efficiently through mobile, also serve as reminders to the patient that they need to stay activated in the care plan if they want to achieve their personal health and quality-of-life goals.
Forming an Outreach Strategy
A multi-prong patient engagement outreach strategy will depend on patients’ health conditions and goals. For efficiency, it may be wise to focus on high-risk populations, such as those with multiple chronic conditions or patients who have been recently been discharged from the hospital and have a higher risk of readmission.
PRO surveys, health reminders, educational materials, and other motivational messages delivered through mobile devices can be automated through a population health management platform. Responses to these messages requiring follow up would then be flagged and compiled for in-person follow up by a care manager or other clinical support staff. Automating the initial outreach, however, can save hours of time for clinicians and help make the follow-ups more targeted and effective.
Convenience for patients can further encourage engagement. That means offering time-saving features such as online appointment scheduling, secure messaging, and bill payment either via mobile or computer. For patients with transportation challenges, home health visits or telehealth appointments can be a cost-effective solution.
Regardless of the outreach strategy, enterprisewide integration of the various tools, such as a portal, mobile communication, telehealth video visits and data from home health providers, will deliver a 360-degree view of patients’ data for physicians. With a holistic picture of clinical and patient-reported outcomes, clinicians can more easily refine a care plan that helps the patient remain engaged in pursuing their goals.
Today’s organizations have an arsenal of tools and options at their disposal to help build a successful patient engagement strategy that supports patients inside a facility or at home. If the strategy delivers a memorable, positive, and consistent experience, it can be invaluable for encouraging patients to take a more active role in improving their outcomes, which can result in lower costs and greater value-based care payments for the healthcare organization.
Gary Hamilton is the CEO of InteliChart, Fort Mill, S.C.