Industry Voices—3 ways to up your mobile patient engagement game for healthier patients

Doctor with patient
Technology creates new ways to promote patient engagement. (Getty/isayildiz)

It may sound severe on the surface, but patient engagement can literally be a life-or-death issue.

Ninety percent of what drives premature deaths happens outside of the healthcare delivery system, meaning patients must take an active approach to managing their own health. Further, chronic diseases kill more and more people every year, while costing the U.S. healthcare system $3.3 trillion annually. This is a clear opportunity for physicians to engage with their patients to help manage chronic conditions while also bringing down costs.

Doctors and other providers understand the importance of patient engagement, but implementing a cost-effective engagement strategy can be challenging. Here are three ways physician practices can find value in a patient engagement strategy, starting with intuitive and patient-centered technology:

1. Save time to allow physicians more time with patients. The ability to automate time-consuming and relatively mundane tasks before the patient even walks through the door helps maximize the time physicians have with patients. It also helps other members of the care team optimize their time in order to meaningfully address patient needs. Tasks that can be automated include:

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  • Scheduling. Using a sophisticated online scheduling system and automating referral outreach reduces phone call loads and can save up to an hour a day per provider.
     
  • Patient intake. Giving patients the opportunity to complete the intake process from their home computer, tablet or phone before they even arrive for the appointment saves significant office time and also alerts physicians of any symptoms or major concerns to help prevent surprises.
     
  • Health education. Based on a patient’s condition, providers can automatically send personalized educational materials to help them prepare in advance of their appointment. This helps create a more valuable visit because it gives patients the chance to ask their provider the right questions.

2. Give patients the tools they need to be engaged in their care. Consumers regularly manage their accounts for all types of services, from banking to transportation, and patients want that same level of control when it comes to healthcare. Providers should allow their patients to schedule and reschedule appointments as necessary, reach out with any questions they may have and easily access information about their care plan, prescriptions and appointment history.

The best way to do this is to implement a platform that allows secure messaging between patients and providers. This encourages regular communication between visits, allowing patients and providers to ask questions, monitor symptoms and update care plans as needed. It also allows providers to give patients wider access to their health information online by linking to patient portals, which are currently used by only 15% to 30% (PDF) of patients. The secure communication platform should be SMS-based, considering 95% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind and text messages claim up to a 99% contact rate.

3. Engage high-risk patients with ongoing outreach. Proactively reaching out to high-risk patients with chronic conditions helps them improve their self-management practices while lending them the support they need to take control of their healthcare journey. Strategies for engaging high-risk patients include:

  • Use technology that can auto-populate lists of patients based on diagnosis and billing codes (CPT and ICD-10). This allows providers to target patients with specific conditions or those who are due for a specific procedure.
     
  • Deliver patients content that helps improve health literacy. Send messages in the patient’s preferred language, and consider varying the format between text, images, videos and interactive quiz questions.

RELATED: How can healthcare improve care for high-need, high-risk patients? Just ask them

All three of these steps help providers get value out of patient engagement, and the benefits can be immense. These patient engagement strategies promote increased success in value-based care, lead to improved patient experiences and, eventually, better outcomes. And in the end, better outcomes are what everyone involved—patients, providers and plans—are striving for.

Tashfeen Ekram, M.D., is chief medical officer and co-founder at Luma Health.

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