Ensuring Patient Engagement Technology Is Effective

By Daniel V Samarov, PhD, Vice President Data Science and Analytics, Twistle
Twitter: @TwistleApp

In order to engage patients in their care in a meaningful and sustained way, patients must see the value in patient engagement systems.

A static repository of information like a patient portal may offer short term benefits like retrieving test results or sending a secure message to a care team, but it doesn’t nurture ongoing engagement. In fact, patient portals can be a source of frustration if they are difficult to navigate and provide results in medical language patients don’t understand. An effective patient engagement strategy aligns with individual patient needs and goals.

Identifying and understanding what motivates patients to engage and proactively take positive steps toward better health is the first step in developing a successful program. For example, patients with a chronic condition may want to know how to manage the issues while enjoying their normal daily activities. A patient facing a surgical episode may want to know the fastest route to full recovery. In each case, education, proactive guidance and intervention, and monitoring to support the individual goals creates value and improves their experience.

Once identified, care providers must find an effective way to communicate – this includes content, format, and timing. When developing an effective and satisfactory patient journey it’s important to answer some key questions:

  1. What is the importance and urgency of the action the patient should take as it relates to their health goals? Is this clearly communicated? For example, information, instruction, and guidance for a patient who wants to return to long distance running after knee surgery should be connected to that goal.
  2. Are you providing enough context so the patient easily understands what to do and what it means for them? Take a colorectal procedure. For example does a colorectal surgery patient understand why reporting constipation is important and what consequences may result if that type of issue goes unreported?
  3. Does the content use the right tone? Some patients need to be nudged toward making good decisions and paying attention to dates and milestones. Others may be more self sufficient and require less frequent communication. Giving patients the right amount of information at the right cadence helps keep them engaged.
  4. Are you including practical, real world information? All patients want to get back to regular life. For example, a surgical patient will want to know if they are healing but also when they can drive again. Including that type of information can help maintain adherence to care plans.

Leveraging technology to test, iterate and personalize engagement
Creating this class of personal engagement is impossible without the use of advanced technology. As you evaluate technologies to determine whether or not they are worth the investment, make sure to ask for the answers to several key questions.

  1. Can the technology be optimized for maximum engagement?
    The success of a patient engagement technology is determined by the value an individual patient sees in it. Patients differ in many ways – demographics, social determinants of health, health goals, and personal preferences. Using technology that can be customized and optimized to deliver a personalized experience, is more likely to achieve sustained, widespread engagement.
  2. Will it reduce care variation?
    Many organizations aim to standardize care guided by clinical best practices to minimize care variation. The right technology that allows robust data collection that can be correlated to outcomes provides powerful evidence for the care team. It can create value in engagement and outcomes analysis to reduce care variation.
  3. Is it a comprehensive solution that can be applied across your organization?
    In an increasingly complex healthcare landscape, a single source of truth and a single sign on for staff outweighs the benefits of a highly specialized tool that has to be accessed outside the EHR. A configurable, integrated technology platform can also be applied across a broad spectrum of use cases and serve as the single source of truth for data-driven initiatives providing maximum value across the organization.
  4. Will it impact costs and resource use that are meaningful to your organization?
    As with any technology, there is an upfront cost – both financially and operationally – but an integrated, proven solution for automated engagement and triage will improve efficiency over time and impact key metrics, including:

    • Reducing no shows
    • Reducing phone calls
    • Improving care plan adherence
    • Shortening length of stay and quicker recovery
    • Reducing readmissions and unplanned emergency department visits
    • Increasing staff efficiency and enabling them to work at top of their license

Remember, there is a unique patient at the other end of each initiative and they ultimately determine its value. An effective engagement program is valuable to both patients and the organization as it strives to reduce care variation, streamline technologies, and analyze data to iterate, improve care quality and make the right decisions for the organization.