8 Things that Influence Patient Engagement

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Patient engagement has come to define modern healthcare. Regardless of size or payment model, healthcare providers across the world are realising that improving patients’ engagement with their own health is the key to unlocking better outcomes. However, like most things in healthcare, there’s no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to patient engagement.

The factors affecting patient engagement within your organisation will largely depend on context, but here are 8 of the most common.

1. Language

This is meant in two senses. On the one hand, as Australia grows ever more linguistically diverse, it’s vitally important to engagement that you’re able to communicate with all your patients — regardless of language barriers. In practice, this can be achieved by ensuring translation functionality is built into the apps, patient self-check-in systems, survey builders and online portals that you use. 

On the other hand, the way in which you speak to your patients — eschewing medical jargon in favour of simple language for example — has an important part to play. Regardless of your organisation’s patient base, it’s safe to say most of them didn’t go to med school, so using everyday, easy-to-understand terminology is an easy way to boost engagement.

For instance, Otolaryngology is replaced with ‘ear, nose, and throat care’ or Oncology is replaced with ‘cancer ward’ on digital signage and wayfinding tools around the hospital. Equally, patient-doctor communication whether through SMS, online portals, or face-to-face can be simplified in the same way.

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2. Going Mobile

Smartphone use as a percentage of the population looks set to hit 74% in Australia by 2022, so any patient engagement strategy needs to be cognisant of the changing ways the world is communicating.

Your patients—particularly those under 40—have grown accustomed to a world in which they can access virtually anything from their smartphone, and justifiably expect the same from their healthcare. A 2017 survey from CDW revealed that the majority of patients are comfortable communicating with their healthcare provider through remote technologies such as online portals (98%), mobile applications (83%) and SMS (77%). 

Smartphones are the perfect conduit for engaging patients whenever and wherever you need to, whether that’s giving them the ability to speak to their doctor via SMS, leave their feedback via an app or read relevant health content through your portal.

3. Accessibility to Care

This one should go without saying, but a big factor in successful patient engagement is simply ensuring that all of your patients can access the information they need. This means tackling barriers to inclusivity such as language (see above) and visual and aural impairment.

For healthcare organisations serious about inclusivity and engagement, technology provides plenty of options for improving patient-access. Some good examples include digital displays to improve patient calling for deaf patients and adjustable content sizing and audiovisual aids for visually impaired visitors.

4. Patient Motivation

We’re all guilty of a little apathy at times, particularly when it comes to the important things like managing our health. As a result, patient engagement can depend as much on the agency and motivation of individual patients as it does on the actions of healthcare providers. Indeed, recent research into factors affecting patient engagement with digital health interventions reached the rather unsurprising conclusion that patients with higher levels of motivation were generally more engaged with their health.

However, this doesn’t mean we should all pack up and go home. The tricky issue of patient inertia simply places the onus firmly on healthcare providers to make it as easy as possible for patients to engage with their health.

5. Digital Media

In Australia, digital media consumption was up 4.4% year-on-year in 2016, and during the same period, print consumption declined by 8.6% — pretty compelling evidence that the way we consume and access media is changing.

This means that for most patients, traditional methods of engagement such as printed pamphlets, posters and noticeboards are likely to produce sub-optimal results at best.

Put yourself in the shoes of a patient for a moment, which is more likely to pique your interest and hold your attention? The punchy 3-minute video on the latest healthcare campaign playing on a digital display as you wait? Or, the dog-eared and dated leaflets on the display rack?

Technology like digital displays in waiting rooms, smart patient information screens and smartphone apps provide an increasing number of options for healthcare organisations to deliver healthcare messaging in new and interesting ways. So, there’s no excuse to stick to the ‘leaflet and hope’ method of the past.

6. Wearable Tech

Wearables hold many benefits for patients, particularly those with chronic conditions that require daily attention, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity. For many adoptees, simply making the decision to wear a device is a de facto commitment to better engagement with their health.

What’s more, these devices provide patients with a powerful source of motivation as well as heightened awareness about how to manage their condition. Devices like smartwatches or step-counters, give wearers the ability to track day-to-day exercise or diet and provide them with a better grasp on how everyday choices can affect their health.

7. Online Portals

Allowing your patients to book an appointment online, request a repeat prescription, leave feedback on treatment, or access the latest health information from their tablet, laptop or smartphone gives them a more proactive role in their own healthcare.

The reason why is simple: like mobile communication, it’s a case of communicating with patients through the most convenient and comfortable forum for them, and increasingly that’s the internet.

8. Patient Involvement

Last of all, better patient engagement can be as simple as giving patients a chance to air their opinion. We all like the opportunity to have our say, it makes us feel we have a stake in things, yet healthcare doesn’t provide many forums for doing so. Sure, patients can vote with their wallet or complain if they don’t like something, but that’s not the same as being given the opportunity to provide recommendations or a general opinion on their care.

It’s logical that the more involved your patients feel with their healthcare the more likely they are to actively engage, and a great way to foster a sense of involvement is patient surveys. Surveys have a few advantages that set them apart from other options: they allow you to set the tone and line of questioning, modern technology makes them a relatively cost-effective choice and they easily dovetail with online portals and mobile access.


Identifying the factors that influence patient engagement with your organisation is an important first step, but that alone won’t improve your ability to connect with patients. On top of establishing the areas where engagement could be improved, you need to pick the right tools for actually improving it.

Our eBook, How to Improve Patient Engagement Within Your Healthcare Organisation, looks at the methods available to healthcare organisations from wearable tech to SMS messaging. Download your copy or follow the link below.

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