As there is no established definition of patient engagement, contradictory opinions clash with common points of view all the time. By accumulating various interpretations and adding real-life experience of how engagement is put into practice, we have come up with to the following term:
Patient engagement stands for the scope of a caregiver’s strategies supported with technology and aimed at encouraging a patient’s willingness and ability to actively participate in their health and care.
Patient engagement misconceptions
By presenting this definition, we also want to clearly distinguish it from two other ideas that frequently go together with the patient engagement concept. Let’s break them down now, once and for all.
Patient engagement = patient experience?
Certainly not. Patient experience doesn’t touch upon an individual’s proactive attitude to their wellbeing, it rather depends on what impression a provider manages to create during the care cycle and beyond. In the plainest words, it is whether individuals like or don’t like being patients of this particular caregiver.
The Beryl Institute gives the following definition of patient experience: “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, which influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”
Patient engagement = complete self-care?
Again, no. While patient experience stands for a patient’s passive role in their care, this particular misconception practically says that properly engaged patients are able to treat their diseases themselves. It is no coincidence we say that individuals actively participate in their care. Participation doesn’t imply that the burden of treating a disease – from a petty cold to atherosclerosis – should be on patients’ shoulders alone.
Key elements of patient engagement
We expressly mentioned IT support in the patient engagement definition, as encouraging patients relies on continuous communication beyond irregular face-to-face appointments, which is achievable only with the help of technologies. Caregivers should also know how exactly to apply software in order to carefully support patients without annoying them.
Therefore, engaging patients takes two interconnected elements: channels and interaction logic.
Patient engagement channels
Channels are the ways to communicate useful information to patients, such as videos, articles and guidelines, as well as to get health data back from individuals (their vitals, mood, nutrition facts). Currently, there are 2 channels available to caregivers – patient portals and mobile apps.
Portals are patient-friendly versions of electronic health records. With the tight integration with EHR, providers can customize and personalize content to offer their patients only relevant materials. Usually, the following features are built into portals:
- Appointment scheduling
- Access to lab results
- Request form for a prescription refill
- Online billing and payment
- Q&A chat
- Social media integration
- Interactive learning options
Portals are something like “good-to-know” things patients can turn to for reference. Even though some portals allow recording vitals, individuals don’t get any feedback and can’t really use this data to assess the treatment progress. This functionality set makes a patient more of a health watcher than an active player in their own wellbeing.
Mobile patient applications
Here we are not speaking about creating another patient portal in the form of a mobile application. While patient portals serve more as reference channel, apps equip patients with tools to control their health status daily by being at an individual’s fingertips.
We define the following types of engaging mobile patient apps:
- Chronic condition management app
- Universal app to interact with all patient groups
- Post-surgery recovery support app
While these three differ from each other according to their use, they share a certain scope of functions and features to ease up patients’ daily healthcare routine:
- PGHD recording and sharing with a caregiver (heart rate, weight, oximetry results, blood pressure, blood glucose, temperature)
- Medication intake scheme with customizable reminders
- Nutritional tips (food diary with calorie calculator, recipes and weekly menu plans)
- Physical wellness and fitness support (warm-up and workout videos, meditation podcasts, breathing technique guides)
- Remote consultations (emergency button, secure video conversations and more)
Practically, portals and apps complement each other. Patient portals encourage individuals’ willingness to get healthier, while apps empower patients’ ability to achieve this goal.
Patient engagement interaction logic
This is the central element of patient engagement, as it sets the rules of communication. Sadly, many patient engagement initiatives lack it, thus their efficiency winds down. The key to implement a strong interaction logic is in the right technology, that’s why we suggest to consider a healthcare CRM.
There are 4 reasons for that: