The Future of Patient Engagement in GP Surgeries

Described earlier this year as a ‘win-win’ for people and services by NHS Director of Policy for National Voices, Don Redding, patient engagement has been steadily climbing the agendas of policymakers, practice managers, and healthcare professionals alike. Patient engagement has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, as healthcare leaves behind the staid world of printed surveys and waiting rooms stuffed full with health awareness leaflets, and moves towards a brighter digital future. But what does this future look like?

The Future is Mobile

UK adults are spending more time on smartphones than ever before. In fact, one 2017 report puts the time at over 2 hours-per-day on average. So, in an age when people can do almost anything from their smartphone, from having their dry cleaning delivered to their desk to ordering dinner, why should engagement with their own healthcare be any different?

Healthcare related apps are cropping up at a rapid pace, for everything from mental health support to online appointment booking. The efficacy of healthcare apps often depends on patients using them regularly and incorporating them into their routine, but traditionally they have struggled with patient engagement. However, this is beginning to change with patients' ever-increasing reliance on smartphones and other devices.

With smartphones, the potential for getting patients more engaged with their health is vast. Patients can now book an appointment or request a repeat prescription, leave feedback on treatment, and access the latest health information from their personal smartphone or tablet device. This allows patients to be far more proactive whilst providing valuable health data to GP surgeries that can use it to better allocate resources and improve healthcare services.

The logic is simple: by making healthcare more accessible through the medium that patients are most likely to engage with, many of the previous barriers to engagement, such as having to take time out of a busy day or simple disinterest in traditional means of patient-practice communication, are removed. For patients, looking after their health becomes as easy as checking their bank balance or booking a taxi.

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We live in a heterogeneous and culturally rich society, with over 300 languages spoken in the UK, so inclusivity has never been more important to successful patient engagement.

In practice, this means making patient services—whether appointment booking, awareness campaigns, or the ability to communicate feedback and opinion on care—open to as many patients as possible. To answer this need, many local practices are utilising technology that allows them to translate vital patient information into multiple languages.

The benefits for patient engagement are obvious: language translation tools allow practices to communicate properly with areas of their community that just a few years ago would have been difficult to reach without a human translator. In turn, the practice benefits from data drawn from a wider patient demographic—giving an accurate representation of patient trends and views from the community they serve and providing a solid foundation from which to make decisions.

Digital Media

In 2017 UK adults will squeeze an average of just over nine hours of digital media usage into their waking hours. Bearing this in mind, it makes little sense to try and reach the majority of patients through more traditional methods: think racks of healthcare awareness pamphlets and dog-eared patient feedback forms in practice waiting rooms.

We covered mobile earlier on, but this is by no means the only alternative method of communicating with patients. Increasingly, GP surgeries are making use of smart patient information screens and digital displays in waiting rooms. This may not sound like particularly revolutionary technology, after all smart TVs have been available commercially for years, but in the context of healthcare it has the potential to dramatically boost patient engagement. 

Smart content delivery gives practices the ability to provide relevant and engaging healthcare messaging while patients wait, in a format that grabs their attention. As a patient waiting for an appointment, are you more likely to read the 3-year old copy of the Radio Times on the table or watch the video on the latest public health concern playing on the display opposite?

What’s more, many smart content offerings allow for customisable content.  This means practice staff can be far more proactive in exposing patients to the latest public health campaigns, as well as providing content specific to their community.

Smarter Surveys

Perhaps the greatest boon to GP surgeries looking to enhance patient engagement has been the rise of user-friendly survey modules, often built into existing infrastructure such as patient check-in kiosks and digital displays.

The healthcare sector has always used surveys as a tool for understanding its patients, and rightly so: the quantitative and qualitative data they provide is often key in identifying patient trends. However, in the past data collection and collation was an arduous task which few practice managers, or patients, really had time for.

No longer. As digital displays and patient check-in kiosks have become near universal in GP surgeries, they have also become the perfect vessel for the delivery of patient surveys. Rather than filling out printed surveys which they may or may not return, or being directed to a website they have little interest in visiting, patients are instead prompted to answer questions during the check-in process. It sounds simple, but because it offers patients a quick and easy process, at a time when they’re answering questions anyway, it increases the likelihood of responses.

Alongside this, the inbuilt analytics and reporting incorporated into many survey modules make processing the data in real-time far more simple for busy practice managers and healthcare professionals. Not only does this save time but it also allows for the identification of patient trends as they happen, providing staff with the tools they need to proactively tackle concerns and the data they need for strategy.

Perhaps unsuprisingly, given the age in which we live, the future of patient enagement is rooted firmly in technology. At the heart of this, is the drive towards making it easier for patients to feel involved with their healthcare and connecting with them through mediums that are easily accesible, interesting and relevant.

To find out more about the future of patient engagment and how our technology can help your practice get there, click here or on the banner below to speak to one of our experts.

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Topics Patient Engagement Technology