May 11, 2018

From point of care to mobile communication: Patient engagement spans the entire healthcare journey

A healthy patient might spend as little as 15 to 30 minutes with his or her primary care doctor during the course of a year.

Add chronic health conditions to the mix, and that same patient will spend an average of 15 hours with his or her doctor out of 8,760 total hours in a year. Whether 15 minutes or 15 hours, point of care visits are critical milestones in a patient’s health journey. It’s where providers diagnose and treat patients, but it should serve as just the beginning of the provider-patient relationship.For far too long, our industry hasn’t focused long or hard enough on what goes on between provider visits: Are patients taking their medications regularly? Are they adhering to treatment plans? Are there gaps in care? In the era of value-based healthcare, patient engagement between episodes of care, is becoming almost as important to driving outcomes as what happens while the patient is in the exam room.

Until recently, patient engagement was little more than an afterthought. Patient portals were a check-the-box requirement for meaningful use. Worse yet, few patients used these portals. Various surveys have estimated patient portal usage in the range of anywhere from 10% to 30%. One key reason the portal approach has failed: They required patients to take the initiative during their busy lives to login to yet another system. Studies analyzing effectiveness and outcomes show that adoption of patient portals has been lukewarm at best, underscoring the need for better, more effective communications.

Outdated approaches like portals are fading as the shift continues from traditional fee-for-service billing to value-based care. Patient engagement initiatives are finding their way into emerging payment and reimbursement models. Under pressure to intensify efforts to close gaps in care, providers must deliver personalized interactions to drive measurable improvements in patient outcomes and quality measures. Mobile technologies can and must be a big part of this outreach strategy and the effort to deliver a more holistic and integrated healthcare experience for patients.

Successful engagement strategies will meet patients where they are – using technologies such as smartphones to deliver vital information to help them improve their health and get the care they need. Patients want the convenience of scheduling appointments online, receiving important text reminders, and obtaining lab results on their cellphones without the barrier of a portal login.

The future of patient engagement is digital, mobile, and automated. Technology can automate repetitive tasks, streamline processes, and decrease costs. For example, by delivering forms and self-assessments to patient’s smartphones for completion ahead of an appointment, wait times can be reduced significantly. At the same time, this can free up staff to spend more time helping patients, rather than focusing on paperwork. The cost savings of going paperless and digitizing registration processes can be significant, too – as much as $4 to $8 per patient visit.

By implementing integrated mobile engagement strategies, providers are learning how to enhance the patient experience through digital technology, increasing usage by as much as 75%. Most importantly, providers are closing gaps in care and increasing patient satisfaction.

The vast majority of patients want to be engaged and they want to receive personalized communications tailored to their health needs and communication preferences. For example, a well patient or episodic patient can be reached with just-in-time appointment reminders, check-ins, surveys, and post-care summaries sent via text. On the other hand, a chronic patient with diabetes will receive messages and reminders to come in for three-month bloodwork.

Patients are no longer willing to tolerate being treated as passive passengers as they travel from one care setting to another. They are now firmly in the co-pilot’s seat, alongside providers and supporting mobile technologies, helping them navigate their individual healthcare journeys.

Original ArticlePost May be found here.