5 Things Set to Shape Patient Engagement in 2019 and Beyond

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Early January is generally the time when healthcare providers begin to take stock of the year passed and look ahead to the future. For organisations seeking to provide value-based care, this often means assessing the year’s patient engagement efforts – not only what worked well, but also opportunities for improvement and escalation in the year ahead.

To help with inspiration for the latter, here’s our list of the top trends likely to dominate patient engagement in 2019 and beyond.

1. Patient Expectations to Grow Further

It’s not that patient expectations didn’t increase dramatically in 2018, they did, but it shows no sign of slowing. If figures from early 2018 suggested a growing number of patients expecting healthcare experiences to match retail customer experiences – 59% of all healthcare consumers according to an NTT DATA Services Survey – that figure is only likely to increase as we progress through 2019.

What’s more, there’s a positive feedback loop between the increased adoption of better patient engagement technology  such as mobile health and online appointment booking platforms by healthcare providers and patient expectation. As these technologies become near-universal, those providers who haven’t yet adopted are faced with a stark choice between modernisation and the risk of losing patients according to a survey from Medical Economics some 79% of respondents were more likely to select a provider that allows them to conduct healthcare interactions online or on a mobile device.  

In turn, the imperative provided by competition makes providers that much more open to innovation which, of course, only pushes patient expectations higher. It’s also worth noting that while this is happening in healthcare, technological innovation continues apace in every other area of patients’ lives, raising the bar for what’s considered ‘normal’ even further.

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2. Increased Uptake of Mobile Health

Ok, so mobile health (mHealth) has been included in every patient engagement trends list in the last 5 years, but it continues to have an important role to play. With over 318,000 mHealth apps available on Google Play and the Apple App Store as of late 2017, and the market expected to reach over AUD 83 billion by 2020, mobile is fast becoming the default vessel for patient engagement.

It’s also increasingly what your patients demand, particularly those in younger demographics. Salesforce’s study of the US healthcare market found that over 71% of Millennials would like their provider to use an app to book appointments, share health data and manage preventive care, a figure that’s unlikely to be vastly different for Australian patients.

As in previous years, those providers who fail to embrace the shift towards providing mHealth apps for basic healthcare functions, such as appointment booking, requesting repeat prescriptions, or doctor-patient communications, may begin to see themselves left behind.

3. Greater Personalisation of Healthcare

Personalisation has long been an important part of patient engagement. After all – as numerous studies have shown – in order to feel engaged with their health, your patients need a sense of personal agency over it.

This can take many forms, from the leveraging of patient data collected from wearables for personalised health plans to more prosaic approaches like providing patients better access to their health records or allowing them to book appointments at a time to suit them. It could even be something as simple as delivering properly targeted healthcare campaigns, such as providing flu jab reminders for over-65s or vaccination campaigns to parents of young children.

Personalisation doesn’t have to involve the latest technology, but mHealth, modern digital signage, and online patient portals — not to mention the rich opportunities for smart use of patient data they offer — certainly make it easier to communicate with your patients in a way that’s convenient and personal to them.

Again, as patients become more and more conditioned to hyper-personalisation in almost all other aspects of their lives, it only makes sense that they will begin to demand the same from interactions with their healthcare provider.

4. Healthcare Providers to Embrace Patient Voice

We spoke about the growing importance of patient voice to patient engagement earlier this year, but as a coherent strategy, it’s still very much in its infancy.

However, it simply makes sense for healthcare providers to embrace it further than most do at moment. Firstly, because social media has democratised the world to the point that we’re all used to having our voices heard whenever we want. You only need to look at how easy it is to speak to almost any business directly through platforms like Twitter to see how prevalent this has become. As healthcare becomes ever-more consumerist and value-led this is only likely to grow in importance.

Secondly, while patient engagement obviously involves plenty of outreach – think SMS and email communications, patient portals and healthcare apps – it’s also true that if your patients don’t feel their voice is being heard, they’re unlikely to feel engaged or satisfied with their healthcare.

5. Patient Engagement to Move Further Outside the Hospital Walls

2019 is only likely to see patient engagement move even further beyond its traditional setting within the walls of hospitals and local practices.

There is now a staggering number of tools available for healthcare organisations to improve patient’s everyday engagement with their health – from patient portals and online appointment booking and prescription request services, through to wearables and every conceivable type of mobile app.

Unlike the more paternalistic methods traditionally associated with patient engagement, these technologies place agency firmly in the hands of patients themselves and allow them to take a proactive approach to their own health. What’s more, by making healthcare a thing that patients do and maintain themselves, as opposed something that’s done to them, healthcare providers are also working towards better health outcomes and ultimately happier patients. This can only bode well for the future of the industry.

 

To learn more about patient engagement and how technology makes it easier than ever before for your healthcare organisation to improve it, download our ebook, How to Improve Patient Engagement Within Your Healthcare Organisation.

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Topics Patient Engagement Technology