At the heart of a strong patient engagement strategy are patients actively managing their healthcare. However, without direction and coaching from providers and support staff, many patients don’t know where to begin.
Building A Successful Patient Engagement Strategy
To build a successful patient engagement strategy - it is crucial that providers and support staff encourage and promote self-management as much as possible. Many times, patients are left in the dark or unaware of self-help options available to them simply because practices have not kept up with new technology or have a poor understanding of how patient engagement systems work.
Electronic health record (EHR) software platforms are offering more products and enhancements that align with patient engagement. It is imperative that both staff and patients are educated on the benefits and functionality of these offerings to reap the full benefits of your patient engagement software. Below are some tips and tricks to make sure your practice is engaging patients and promoting patient engagement strategies.
Unlock Your EHR Capabilities
It is important that providers and staff are up to date on new and existing patient engagement tools within their electronic health record product. It is helpful to have a dedicated resource within your practice that receives newsletters or communications from your vendor - to keep an eye on new developments and share information with your practice. EHR vendors are constantly creating and evolving new elements within their software to assist patients and caregivers. Newer technology options may include:
- EHR Telehealth capabilities: This feature gives providers the ability to treat patients from the comfort of their own home or from another facility that maybe easier for the patient to access. Staff members can help vet the need for this type of an appointment versus a traditional on-site appointment. This service has been a great asset for patients that may live in different locations throughout the year to maintain an ongoing relationship with their provider. Another benefit to telehealth visits is the ability to keep sick patients at home and reduce the spread of communicable diseases or illnesses.
- EHR Patient Portal: While this feature is not new, many EHR platforms have created patient portal enhancements. This option is the most used patient engagement tool to date. It is important for staff to maintain and update their patient portal with practice news and patient self-help options. A few enhancements may include online payment service, messaging, patient educational material, integrated health monitoring devices and requesting or scheduling an appointment online.
- EHR Campaigns: Many EHRs have the capability of sending mass messages or “campaigns” to patients that are due for care items such as lab tests, annual wellness visits and immunizations. These EHR campaigns are a great way to engage patients to act on their healthcare needs and can be easily managed by office support staff.
Offer Patient Education Group Sessions
Offering group patient education sessions is a great way of passing along helpful information. These sessions should be planned and clearly communicated to patients via verbal reminders, flyers, or using the “campaigns” feature listed above. To boost engagement, ensure that your entire staff is taking an active role in encouraging patient attendance. Sessions may include:
- Chronic condition management
- Diet and exercise informational sessions, or
- Behavioral health seminars
Provide Practice Optimization and Training
Once a practice decides to incorporate new technology or update current patient engagement offerings it is most important to ensure staff has a clear understanding of each offering and how it functions. It is all too common that staff is unable to assist a patient with questions or troubleshoot issues that may arise with new technology. Below are some ideas to help assist practices:
- Invest in an EHR consultant: EHR consultants are highly trained in their field and can provide recommendations on patient engagement tools that best fit your practice needs. If you already have a practice engagement tool in place, but your staff isn’t trained on how to use it effectively (or your vendor recently rolled out new features) a consultant can also help train your staff on utilizing the tool effectively.
- Train your medical office staff: Prior to releasing technology and patient engagement offerings, it is highly recommended to hold staff training to review how the tool works, how to troubleshoot issues, and what the patient will experience as an end user of the product. It is helpful to have the staff member view these capabilities from the patient perspective. This allows the staff to have buy in on how the technology should be set up and allows them to more easily troubleshoot patient questions when they arise.
Patient engagement strategies require time and staff dedication. These strategies allow patients and healthcare facilities to work together to provide thorough, cost effective care. Staying current on new technology, revisiting current system set up and partnering with an EHR consultant will set your practice up for continued success.