Although everybody is talking about patient engagement, nobody seems able to agree on what it is. Skype examinations? Mobile healthcare apps? Online appointment booking? AI diagnoses? Digital patient surveys?
Actually, it’s all of these things and yet, really, it’s none of them.
While the technologies listed above are an important part of supporting patient engagement, patient engagement itself is about empowering patients to make good health decisions in their everyday lives.
The idea goes back as far as 1974, a time when academics believed that teaching a patient to read and comprehend medical information would improve their ability to remain healthy.
Since then it’s grown into something far more expansive, but at the heart of patient engagement is the same idea of helping patients understand how to be healthier. Now though it also includes finding ways of encouraging and enabling them to put that knowledge into practice.
If the patient engagement buzz started over 30 years ago, what’s happening right now that’s causing the recent hype?
Well, it’s not just one thing — it’s the perfect marriage of available technology, a willingness from patients to use the technology, a belief in the technology's ability to increase quality of life and the availability of patient health data.
- 89% of all adult UK citizens use the internet. (source)
- 75% of the UK population use the internet for health information. (source)
- Over 96% of GP practices have installed digital clinical record systems. (source)
- 93% of users think that health apps help to improve their quality of life. (source)
These factors have together created the perfect environment for patient engagement to move to the front of healthcare providers’ minds.
What Does Patient Engagement Look Like?
Obviously, technology can have a huge effect on patient engagement, but not without the right implementation and support from healthcare professionals.
There are literally thousands of healthcare apps on the market, and the best of these may well have a huge part to play in the future of patient engagement. The NHS itself has an entire library of apps, and has even gone as far as offering free devices to patients, to help with everything from quitting smoking and getting more active, to dealing with mental health issues and managing cancer treatment.
What’s great about these apps is they’re able to use the same proven design and user experience methodologies used by retail or gaming organisations, to increase the likelihood that patients will behave in ways that increase positive health outcomes.
It’s not just apps though — over the past decade the UK has seen a rise in the number of practices that offer online portals to help patients book appointments, contact doctors, order prescriptions and access basic health advice.
While the success of patient portals is no doubt largely due to the ease of access provided, much credit is owed to the efforts taken by healthcare professionals to educate and encourage patients who previously didn’t have the digital skills required to use the portal.
But patient engagement doesn’t have to involve technology, and it doesn’t have to directly connect patients with their healthcare. It can be as simple as ensuring you provide health information in different languages or easy-to-follow signposting.
Even just encouraging healthcare professionals to introduce themselves by name to patients or adopting positive body language when beginning conversations will improve the patient experience and thereby encourage increased engagement.
Are There Any Benefits to Patient Engagement?
“Yes!”, is the simple answer to this question.
This explains why providers, practitioners and patients are rushing to get involved, causing predicted growth at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CGAR) of 23% to the global patient engagement industry between 2015 to 2023.
- Feeling confident about managing their conditions
- Recalling necessary information and knowledge
- Reporting that the chosen treatment was right for them
- Feeling satisfied with their care and treatment
- Adhering to their chosen treatment according to protocols
- Participating in monitoring and preventative medicine activities
So, it’s no wonder practices across the UK are increasingly focused on patient engagement. No doubt encouraged by NHS Director of Policy for National Voices, Don Redding’s statement earlier this year that patient engagement is a ‘win-win’ for people and services.
Are You Getting Patient Engagement Right?
Patient engagement is clearly a big aspect of modern-day healthcare, with the global patient engagement industry predicted to reach $34.9bn by the end of 2023. Almost all healthcare providers now have an engagement strategy, but how can you know if you’re getting it right?
Patient surveys allow providers to capture a range of both quantitative and qualitative data to help measure patient engagement. Delivering surveys is now more convenient than ever due to the proliferation of check-in kiosks that patients are already familiar with and comfortable using.
These can be easily integrated with software like our Enlighten survey module, which has in-built analytics, allowing you to quickly identify concerns raised or trends developing—enabling a proactive response in real time.
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