Technology is changing all aspects of modern medicine. Today’s doctors are using technology to track recoveries, to offer support after surgery and increase the level of communication with their patients. By leveraging technology, doctors are increasingly engaging with their patients in a way we have never seen before – and it’s a move that seems to be paying dividends.
What is Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement is the process of enabling patients to become “partners” in their own recovery. It’s a far cry from the “doctor-as-God” philosophy of years gone by. These days, it’s all about empowering patients to contribute to their personal recovery.
A Constructive Dialogue
HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) defines patient engagement as, “the ongoing and constructive dialogue between patient and practitioner.” More and more it seems this constructive dialogue works. Patients who take an active role in the recovery process, and are kept up-to-date before any procedure, are more likely to have a better outcome than those who don’t. Patient engagement ensures the patients themselves are critical players in their return to good health.
This is great news for the patients, surgeons, and surgical practices. Clinics don’t want to see patients returning due to complications after surgery as they face being penalized with reduced levels of reimbursements for high levels of readmission. Anything that can be done to cut down on the number of unhappy and unsatisfied patients post- surgery should be embraced.
While patient engagement covers a broad range of approaches and practices, they all put the patient front and center.
Tools for Patient Engagement
Here are 5 tools for practices that can enhance patient engagement through open and direct communications:
If information is king, then a patient portal can make royalty out of anyone who knows how to access a website. These secure online sites allow patients to access their personal health information without calling the doctor or bothering a receptionist for paperwork. Using a secure username and password, patients can review their recent visits, see lab results and find a list of their medications. Depending on the site, some portals also allow patients to request prescription refills, email their health care providers and schedule appointments.
Mobile apps are becoming more and more prevalent as effective patient-engagement tools. Apps can be used for anything from educating patients pre-surgery, recovery, dosage trackers or exercise reminders. Apps take some of the stress and pressure off the patients. They don’t have to remember everything about their recovery; it’s all there in the app. Understandably, this can go a long way to reducing stress, which helps in the recovery process.
However, a caveat: While technology absolutely has its place in healthcare and in patient engagement, physicians and managers must consider their patient demographic before deciding what and how much technology they want to introduce into the practice. If a surgeon primarily sees older patients, they are probably not the best audience for a high tech tool. With any potential new tool, be sure to consider the patient first. If not, you might find that patients become disengaged rather than increasingly engaged from their healthcare journey.
Patient-Generated Health Data (PGHD)
While physicians and other healthcare professionals are the ones keeping track of, well, everything, there’s only so much information they can get from a short visit. PGHD supports and supplements existing clinical data and can fill in some important gaps. It allows doctors to understand how patients are doing in-between visits and provides long-term or wider ranging data rather than only “in the moment” information. Although there are a range of apps to help record critical information, patients or caregivers can also do it the old-fashioned way – by writing down any important details. As long as anything important is brought to the physician’s or surgeon’s attention.
While physicians and other healthcare professionals are the ones keeping track of, well, everything, there’s only so much information they can get from a short visit. PGHD supports and supplements existing clinical data and can fill in some important gaps. It allows doctors to understand how patients are doing in-between visits and provides long-term or wider ranging data rather than only “in the moment” information. Doctors can use this information to tweak recommendations given to patients. Keeping tabs on their patient’s health information can greatly impact the patient’s recovery.
Using Your Existing Tools to Engage Patients
Along with these four key areas, don’t underestimate the power of your existing EMR or other workflow platforms such as Surgimate when it comes to patient engagement.
Surgimate, for example, can generate all the relevant surgical data to help clinicians track their patients’ progress post-surgery, and share this information with any necessary third parties. It also stores all notes and communication, giving up-to-the-moment access on where the patient is in the recovery process.
As patient engagement becomes an increasingly important part of the medical process, and patients get used to their more active role, there will undoubtedly be an influx of tools, systems, and platforms. All of these additions will ensure patients are no longer just another file to get through, but they are – rightly – important players in tracking their own good health.