Last week in the article “The Patient Engagement Question”, we discussed the ambiguity surrounding “patient engagement.” Many medical professionals generally agree that the term refers to an increase in patient participation, cooperation, and collaboration in their healthcare. Today, anyone following the latest healthcare IT trends can recognize the importance of employing technology to encourage patients to take a more active role in their health.
Here are three ways practices can use technology to increase patient engagement levels:
1. Continuously engage patients via online platforms
As a society, we are often plugged into our phones or computers to surf the web or other social media outlets. So why not join the conversation and get patients thinking about their health? By creating Facebook pages that patients can follow, practices can share relevant health articles, for example, or post reminders to get shots during flu season. Similarly, utilizing email newsletters provides a way for practices to send mass office reminders or monthly updates to all of its patients. Patient portals create a secure environment where patients can receive notification emails that their test results have been updated and then view them online. Patients can message their doctor, request a prescription refill, or schedule an appointment all through a secure online environment.
2. Utilize mobile technology
Americans are constantly on the go and have grown accustomed to handling affairs via smartphones – a call, a search, you name it. Patients have the technology, so now let’s communicate with them in the way they operate most efficiently. If patients have the opportunity to update any information, quickly and easily, then we could see an entirely different population of highly engaged patients. Practices can encourage patients to check in to an appointment and fill out an intake form via a mobile-friendly website. For practices that use patient portals with smartphone apps, patients no longer need to get to a computer or call a staff member to handle any basic medical need. Instead, everything is in the palm of their hand.
3. Incorporate wearable medical technology into patient data collection
There is no doubt that patients want to be actively involved in their health. Simply look at the popularity of Fitbits, Jawbones, and other personal health monitoring technology that can track steps taken, calories burned, average heart rate, etc. Now, even iPhones can count steps and monitor the sleep pattern of its owner. Practices can incorporate these wearable tracking devices by encouraging patients to input this information manually or sync the device with the portal to update automatically. Here, doctors would have a clearer picture of a patient’s health rather than once a month (or less) check-in. This constant monitoring and data entry could revolutionize the way patients take ownership of their health care.
There is no question that utilizing technology is a dynamic and effective way to increase patient engagement. The vertex of engaging patients online, embracing mobile technology, and encouraging patients to link wearable medical technology to their health records will no doubt be a game-changer for the innovative practice.