Balance tech, care teams to drive patient engagement

Female doctor talking to male patient in hospital bed
Care teams are an effective way to drive patient engagement, but don't overlook technology. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

While new technologies have boosted patient engagement, most providers lean more heavily on care teams, according to a new survey. But two experts said it's still important to include tech tools in the mix. 

Close to two-thirds (63%) of respondents to a NEJM Catalyst Insights Council survey said deploying care teams to treat complex patients is one of their organization’s main strategies to improve patient engagement.

The number of council members that use care teams as a key approach was significantly higher than those who may use technology tools like online portals or wearables (44%) or emphasize social ties between patients (24%).

RELATED: High tech, high touch ways to engage patients, members

The survey's 555 respondents—a mix of clinicians, clinical leaders and executives from across the healthcare industry—also ranked care teams as the best tool to improve patient engagement, with 91% saying they are either effective, very effective or extremely effective.

Seventy-two percent said the same about tech tools.

One thing holding providers back? Perceived costs and the fact that health insurance companies don't cover wearables, smartphone apps and other technologies. But salaries for employee-intensive care teams are costly, too. 

RELATED: Patient engagement tech gains traction, but costs a concern

Though the council overall felt that care teams were the most effective solution, providers must use a mix of methods to engage patients, wrote Kevin G. Volpp, M.D., a professor of medicine and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and Namita S. Mohta, M.D., an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 

“As healthcare delivery organizations continue their efforts to positively influence patient engagement, they would ideally have care teams bear less of the load while technology tools and social networks provide more support,” they wrote.