Patient engagement has become increasingly important for healthcare providers. This is because evidence has shown that engaged patients have better experiences, better health and lower clinical costs. But what can a doctor or other healthcare provider do to ensure their patients are engaged?
Patient engagement is a term that describes the tactics used to strengthen relationships, create better experiences and improve communication, with the end goal of reducing adverse outcomes. When a patient is engaged they are more likely to not only understand, but also follow the prescribed treatment regimen.
The one area that doctors can control more than anything else is the experience patients have while in their office. Communication is an excellent way to show a patient you care. At a recent doctor’s appointment I was anxious about the fact that I waited over an hour to see my provider. But when he came in I felt better about things because he sat down and started talking to me. Not just about my health, but about my life. His interest in not only what I was there for clinically meant something. It showed me he was genuinely interested in taking the time to speak with me even though he had a waiting room full of patients. It showed me that each person mattered to him. If instead he rushed in and briefly spoke to me about my health and then raced off to the next patient, I would have had a much different opinion.
The most important thing for providers to do to improve patient engagement is to engage patients by opening up the lines of communication. It is easy to fall into the routine of doing more talking than listening. After all, most patients consider their doctor to be a trusted source of information, and will gladly sit back and listen to what they have to say. While this is important, it is equally important that they truly understand what is being said to them. Plus, patients must have the opportunity to ask questions. When appointment reminder calls are made, consider asking patients to bring a list of questions with them on their next visit.
Going a step further, providers should lend an ear beyond the exam room doors. Social media is not only a successful medical marketing tool, but it is a way for patients to speak with their provider about their concerns without having to leave their comfort zone. If you have not already considered implementing a social media strategy, we here at MindStream Creative have the information and the expertise to assist you.
Patient engagement isn’t the sole responsibility of the healthcare provider. Every person who touches the patient, from scheduling to billing, has a responsibility to help meet the needs of the patient. In order to ensure this is happening, a practice-wide process should be put into place. This process should include guidelines for everything from phone etiquette to triaging patients. It should also include procedures for the use and management of the facilities’ social media page.
Not only can these simple gestures lead to increases in patient satisfaction, but it can also bring in word-of-mouth referrals. Being emotionally available to your patients is something that you should never take for granted. Your patients certainly do not!