4 Keys to Improving Patient Engagement

In this 21st century healthcare environment we all know and love, there seems to be little consensus about anything. Take for example the idea of patient engagement. It seems like a pretty straight forward concept, but it actually inspires a considerable amount of debate. Dan Munro, a Forbes contributor on the topics of healthcare innovation and policy and CEO of iPatient, an online service designed to help transform the patient-provider dialog, puts it thusly: “how we define and then implement patient engagement will determine whether it’s truly a miracle drug – or just another variant of age-old snake oil.

So how should we define and then implement strategies designed to improve patient engagement? Because if it can be a miracle drug, or, as Leonard Kish, Principal and Co-Founder of VivaPhi, puts it, the “blockbuster drug of the century”, we had better get it right.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the Department of Health & Human Services recently released a guide online entitled “Guide to Patient and Family Engagement in Hospital Safety and Quality”, with the stated goal of helping to bridge the communication gap between patients, families and health care providers, and provide real-world examples of how the engagement strategies presented in the guide are being implemented in hospital settings.

The guide focuses on four strategies:

  1. Be advisors. It’s important for hospitals to recruit and train patients and family members to serve as advisors and train clinicians and hospital staff to work effectively with them.
  2. Promote better communication at the bedside to improve quality. This can happen when patients and families can interact with the health care team, understand the different roles that team members play and see the importance of being partners with clinicians.
  3. Participate in bedside shift reports. Teaching patients and families what a bedside shift report is, how they can contribute to it, and how nurses can support those contributions is crucial to success.
  4. Prepare to leave the hospital. The guide provides several different approaches clinicians can use to plan and keep track of the tasks that need to be done before a patient is discharged from the hospital.

Technology, specifically that which enables and supports mobile health, can have a significant impact on the patient engagement strategies listed above. Also, according to a recent study conducted by the Center for Connected Health, wireless devices can improve patient engagement, thanks to:

  • ease of use
  • real-time transmission of data
  • increased device portability within the patients home

So is patient engagement just snake oil – or is it really a miracle drug like many prognosticators say? Stay tuned next week for a look at some instances where improved patient engagement has helped make significant changes in patient outcomes.

Leave a Comment