Here's how health IT leaders are looking to improve patient engagement

Digital health leaders are prioritizing investments in digital tools to improve patient engagement and outcomes, a recent survey has found.

The 2022 patient engagement trends survey was conducted by Intrado Healthcare in September 2021 and reached 50 of 5,000 worldwide members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. Most respondents (41) indicated they are based in the U.S., according to the company. 

Digital health executives believe revenue and the patient experience will be improved through automation of patient engagement strategies, bolstered by strong EHR integration, which can increase visit volumes and reduce staff workload. 

Only 11% of executives said texting was a top communication channel at their organization, though nearly half reported using patient portals as the primary method for communication and engagement. 

“An over-reliance on standalone patient portals for engagement, even though SMS communications are preferred by patients, is hindering healthcare efforts to connect with patients, improve the patient experience, and improve care plan adherence,” the report said.

Most respondents (77%) are investing in enhanced portals and mobile apps, and more than half plan to invest imminently in systems to communicate with patients via SMS, the preferred communication method of patients. 

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More than a third of respondents said they rely on manual telephone outreach, even though it adds to staff burden and increases costs. At the same time, most reported call center investments as their lowest priority. 

Fewer than 40% reported automating a variety of engagement workflows, including referral management, appointment self-scheduling and pre-procedure communications. Most do automate simple appointment reminders, however. Nearly half hope to automate the ability to schedule via SMS and more than a third also want to automate electronic check-in. Less than a fifth of respondents reported as a next priority automating balance reminders, test results, pre-procedure communications and prescription refills. 

The vast majority of respondents (87%) reported considering the level of EHR integration when considering investing in new technology, and most (66%) also reported considering return on investment. Less than half said they consider ease of deployment and operations.