For healthcare providers, patient engagement has become increasingly important as we move toward reimbursement models that value outcomes. With higher engagement, providers see increased patient adherence and better outcomes.
Patients are also interested in ways to increase patient engagement. Since the pandemic, patients have been increasingly looking for providers to help them take an active role in their health. With better engagement, they are more comfortable with their providers, build greater trust, and are more likely to get the help they need in affording treatment and budgeting their needed well-care.
Patient engagement doesn’t happen overnight. Organizations first need to understand the population health that they serve in order to create better options for engagement. By understanding the population, healthcare providers are more equipped to understand why patients may not be following treatment recommendations. For instance, in populations that struggle financially, high-cost medications may not be affordable.
Understanding population health also helps physicians and providers proactively address high risks for patients. By understanding population health, organizations can improve engagement. At the same time, improved engagement leads to better outcomes and improved population health. With greater population health, patients experience lower risks of illness.
In this post, we’ll discuss what population health and patient engagement are and how they work together to ensure greater outcomes for patients and communities.
What Is Population Health?
Population health refers to the health statistics in a group or geographic area. In this way, population health helps organizations and physicians understand the risk factors and unique makeup of the patients in their geographic area. Rather than concentrating on one, single patient, population health looks at the data for all the population in that area.
Why is this beneficial?
When we look at the overall population health in a set area, we can clearly see higher risks for the population in general. For instance, in densely populated areas, we might see higher rates of contraction of the flu and other communicable illnesses. For healthcare organizations, offering flu vaccines and other preventative measures can be helpful in these areas.
Healthcare organizations can also highlight certain illnesses that may be prevalent among the population to make it easier to diagnose and offer preventative care for patients.
What Is Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement is a widely used term in healthcare because it’s been shown to contribute to improved outcomes and increased satisfaction with care. Usually, when patient engagement is mentioned, it alludes to getting the patient more actively involved in their healthcare decisions. This involvement means that patients are more likely to take an active interest in their ongoing health choices, such as diet and exercise. It also means that they’re more likely to schedule visits and follow prescribed therapies.
According to PubMed, “Patient engagement is both process and behavior and is shaped by the relationship between the patient and provider and the environment in which healthcare delivery takes place.”
There are different factors involved in encouraging patient engagement. The care should be personalized and value the patient’s specific needs, including financial constraints. It also includes making access as available as possible and reviewing procedures to make certain that the process is convenient to encourage use.
Why Is Patient Engagement Important for Health Systems?
For health systems, patient engagement has become a top priority in recent years for several reasons. First, we’ve seen evidence that patient engagement improves outcomes. That’s enough of a reason to prioritize patient engagement in practice.
There are other benefits which are also important. Patient engagement encourages greater satisfaction in the care process. Patients who are happy with their healthcare often return and recommend the organization to friends. Patients are also more likely to be honest with providers when they feel cared for and develop a level of trust.
These factors combined lead to a better experience for patients and the organization. Healthcare organizations have added patient portals, the ability to self-check-in, and other technology to help patients access what they need on their own schedule. These additions also have the benefit of streamlining workflow for staff, updating patient records more efficiently, and saving time and costs.
Challenges in Enabling Better Patient Engagement
Increasing patient engagement is a constant consideration. Many healthcare organizations struggle to develop processes that alleviate all the challenges they can face. Here are a few common challenges:
Not Having Patient Feedback
It’s difficult to increase engagement when you don’t understand the challenges that your patients face. Many organizations can benefit from having patients fill out short surveys. This gives you an overview of what patients experience in your organization and can help pinpoint areas for improvement.
Patient engagement becomes much easier to manage with intuitive technology solutions that help your staff easily find what they need and launch solutions for your patients.
Many providers have a limited amount of time in their schedules. When patient visits are overscheduled, it’s difficult for providers to take the time with each patient that is necessary to get a fuller picture of their health and symptoms and just to help them understand any treatment/next appointments.
Different cultures and areas have their own communication styles which can hinder care for physicians who are not well versed in other languages and even cultural traditions. Translators and investing in education about the patient’s background can help organizations make sure that culturally diverse communications don’t hinder engagement.
Tips on Engaging Patients in Value-Based Care
Value-based care is a model that prioritizes outcomes over individual services. For healthcare organizations, patient engagement is crucial to provide this type of care, because higher outcomes are more likely when patients proactively engage and use all avenues of preventative care.
There are many reasons why patients might lapse in their care regimen. Understanding the population health can give organizations a good indication as to what barriers their patients might experience. For instance, common challenges include the inability to take time off of work for appointments, the inability to afford recommended treatment options, lack of medical coverage, and a lack of literacy or understanding of medical conditions and symptoms.
Understanding the challenges faced by the healthcare population can help organizations develop the right strategies to increase engagement. Here are some tips to increase engagement based on the most common barriers:
Flexibility in Scheduling
When patients can’t take time from work for screenings, the ability to schedule appointments outside of business hours is an important way to help them manage their wellness.
Patient Payments and Counselling
Proactively working with patients to make their scheduled appointments and treatments more budget friendly helps eliminate the financial stress that might cause them to miss appointments and treatments.
Working with Patients to Find Affordable Medication Options
If there are generic or less expensive prescriptions available, organizations should work to provide options.
Support Options for Chronic Conditions
This might include providing literature and additional education or referring patients to specialists who can help them manage chronic issues.
Preventative Care Literature
Healthcare organizations should work to help patients understand the importance of preventative care. This might include offering information in multiple languages and taking time during appointment hours to talk through preventative care for patients who are less likely to read the information on their own.
- With higher engagement, providers see increased patient adherence and better outcomes.
- Organizations need to understand the population health to create better options for engagement.
- Many healthcare organizations struggle to develop processes that alleviate challenges in enabling better patient engagement.
Patient engagement is crucial to provide value-based care because higher outcomes are more likely when patients proactively engage and use all avenues of preventative care.