Care management

The Scope of Patient Engagement in 2019: A Review of How’s and Why’s

Abhinav Shashank
Tue 16 October 2018

In his critically acclaimed book, America’s Bitter Pill, Steven Brill famously discussed how healthcare is the only sector where advancements in technology have increased costs instead of reducing them. Our nation’s healthcare spending keep outnumbering itself each yearㅡ a fact that troubles both the federal agencies and healthcare organizations alike.

The undeniable link between patient experience and overall costs

Among many other factors, patient engagement and satisfaction is directly related to an organization’s finances. According to an estimate, if 10% more patients rate a hospital as “excellent,” it has a potential impact of about 1.5% on that hospital’s margins.

In a world where the quality of care directly influences the financial success of an organization, providers should look forward to aligning the needs of their patients to their treatment procedure. However, it requires a well thought-out strategy and a team-based approach. Some of the things organizations need to take care of include:

1. Defining what they want to achieve without any ambiguity

A patient-engagement survey conducted by NEJM Catalyst Insights Council found that about 60% of providers believe that increased clinician-patient time can improve the overall engagement. In the same survey, more than 50% of the providers agreed that shared decision-making is extremely crucial while the other half didn’t think that it was important.

It is safe to conclude that the definition, as well as the scope of patient engagement, varies from provider to provider. However, organizations cannot rely on a makeshift approach for engaging patients. They not only need to have a concrete strategy, but also adequate resources and ample staff support to evaluate what works best for them and what do they need to do.

2. Knowing which data point makes sense and which doesn’t

To involve patients more holistically in their care journeys, providers first need to know them wholly. However, fragmented information cannot become the fulcrum of an efficient healthcare system. The entire data has to be available at a single place so that each care team member can pull out relevant patient information without going through unnecessary never-ending stacks of irrelevant data.

In today’s age of intelligence, successful organizations do one thing right- they know the worth of their data. Utilizing data in hand is paramount for achieving the goal of seamless patient engagement and advancing preventive and evidence-based care initiatives.

3. Working with a team-based approach

What majorly revolved around physicians at all times historically, care delivery system has now evolved as being a consensual effort among care teams, patients, and their families. However, we are nowhere near where we should have been, and lack of coordination among different providers still results in 30% of the total malpractice cases across the states.

Looking at each care procedure as a team-based task is what healthcare needs. Working together can also close care gaps at each step and put care teams in a better position to answer questions of their patients.

Many organizations lack quality engagement channels and rely on outdated methods such as fax machines and even letters. Real-time information can become the cornerstone for improved patient engagement and care outcomes and therefore it is essential that care teams are equipped with the right support to share and receive insights just when they want.

4. Realizing why each care-team member is valuable and how to utilize them

The U.S. National Guideline Clearinghouse explicitly mentions more than 2,700 clinical practice guidelines. A single provider cannot oversee, imbibe, or utilize the entire information, and therefore understanding the roles of different care members is extremely necessary.

Leaders should strategically distribute work among different care team members to enrich the end-to-end care experience of patients. Clarity about the daily and long-time objectives can aid providers in canvassing just the information they need and developing a bond with their patients at their level. In addition to that, it can also reduce disparities often associated with addressing patient concerns.

5. Enabling communication transparency with techniques such as SBAR

No organization can thrive without its providers effectively communicating with each other. The SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation) framework, for instance, is now used seen as one of the most effective manners to enhance the level of communication. In its purest form, the SBAR technique consists of four steps:

  • Understanding the criticality of the Situation, generally through a crisp statement
  • Realizing the Background of the medical problem and context of patients’ visit
  • Stating the problem based on current Assessment and medical findings
  • Making a Recommendation to deal with the problem in the best possible manner

Techniques like these are easy-to-understand, descriptive, and guarantee proper documentation. Further, they are helpful in eliminating information gaps. Coupled with the relevant data at the point of care, they can also streamline the care delivery and engage patients at every step.

6. Understanding the role of leadership

Leadership plays a critical role in increasing patient engagement levels and can act as a catalyst to bring providers and patients closer to each other. If the top leadership is willing to invest their time and resources in facilitating patient engagement, the organization can substantially improve patient awareness in a short span of time.

Leadership is as much accountable for patient outcomes as the staff. They need to realize the importance of technology, IT infrastructure, staffing optimization, provider work-life balance, among others in order to ensure that care quality is not compromised. They should have a concrete strategy for patient engagement and have a foolproof plan for:

  • Physicians’ and care teams’ participation
  • Providing modern amenities to treat patients
  • Building world-class physical and IT infrastructure
  • Ensuring open-communication with patients

7. Working on the loopholes and addressing provider and patient concerns

Patients tend to drift away from their treatment regime if they are not confident about the person who attends them. Likewise, providers may feel burned-out if they are subjected to too much of administrative burden while working towards making the delivery system “patient-centric.”

By nurturing an open-feedback culture at each level, organizations can uncover patient and provider grievances and disagreements and address them promptly. Some of the questions that are imperative to ensure smooth functioning of the organization include:

  • Are our care teams happy with their daily regime?
  • Do our patients feel comfortable while sharing their concerns?
  • How good or bad our patients rate us on reviewing websites?
  • Is our ED always completely occupied?
  • Can we reduce readmissions and patient wait times?
  • How likely are our patients to recommend our facilities?

Evaluating your organization on these measures may open hidden improvement opportunities and enhance patient engagement levels.

The road ahead

In a recent survey, it was found that 60% of patients want to access their health information in a jargon-free language. Patients’ awareness is on an all-time high, and they are no more oblivious to their treatment procedures. In years to come, patient portals and mHealth apps will become more and more mainstream. With each passing day, patients will challenge current efficiencies and it will pave the way for a more consistent, cost-effective, and personalized experience each time.


To know more about how a unified healthcare data platform can aid your care teams in improving patient engagement, get a demo.

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