But Wait, There’s More!

Beyond the hype you’ll find patient engagement strategies with tangible results

I love those TV advertisements that always include the phrase “But wait, there’s more!” and then offer you twice as much product for just a second shipping and handling fee. The products all do something so amazing, you can’t quite believe they work. Often they don’t, but sometimes they are actually pretty good.

Marketing for patient engagement solutions often sounds like those TV ads – too good to be true. But some patient engagement strategies work every bit as well as advertised and even better. It pays to understand what works and what doesn’t.

First, consider your goal. Improving patient satisfaction? Preventing chronic disease complications? Reduce the misinformation patients find online? Opening a new office, establishing a new practice, or wanting to attract new patients?

All are goals you can address with a comprehensive patient engagement strategy – including health coaching, telehealth, patient relationship management and social media outreach and listening. The key is to think through each goal and evaluate tools objectively, focusing on your goals, not the hype. Below is a quick tour of effective tools, starting with the most important goal: improved outcomes.

More effective than medications?

“Patient engagement will be the blockbuster drug of the century,” according to Leonard Kish, citing a 2009 Kaiser study which used coordinated cardiac care to reduce risk of dying of a cardiac event by 88 percent. Those results are far better than any drug on the market. A 2008 VA coordinated care/telehealth study had similar results.

While Kish’s statement sounds hyperbolic, the research backs him up. Coordinated care, patient coaching and telehealth technology can improve outcomes, reduce the need for expensive hospitalization and delight your patients – the VA study reported that 86% of patients involved with the telehealth program were satisfied with their care.

Want to increase your HCAHPS score? Use digital tools

Patient satisfaction often hinges on convenience and responsiveness. A recent survey by the Advisory Board found that convenience trumped loyalty in primary care, and convenience also affects satisfaction with hospital care. To figure out what you need, look at your organization from the patient’s view point, and judge the convenience of your services against other industries, because that’s the standard your patients will use. Digital tools are expected. If your patients can book a complex travel itinerary online, they expect to be able to book a doctor’s appointment that easily, too.

How long do patients sit in your waiting room? The Advisory Board survey found patients will wait patiently about half an hour for a scheduled or walk-in visit and longer waits create ill-will. Many urgent care and emergency centers use digital strategies to reduce waiting times: posting wait times online, allowing patients to sign in before they leave home, and alerting scheduled patients if the physician is running late. Automated voice, email or text reminders are also appreciated.

For hospitals, an inpatient tablet app can provide a convenient way for patients to access information about their stay, and you can include surveys or other response mechanisms to get real-time feedback about the patient experience.

Integrate your data with a patient relationship management system

If Amazon can remember every item your patients have even considered buying, they expect that you will have an accurate record of their family health history, medications and insurance information. Giving the same information repeatedly is irritating, and patients will judge your services accordingly. A patient relationship management system – the healthcare version of a customer relationship management system (CRM) – can integrate all the random data about a patient from a variety of sources and help you know the patient more fully. It gives you a systematic way to remember personal details that aren’t recorded elsewhere. Patients like knowing that you see them as individuals.

Social media can give you feedback and help you engage patients more fully

Want to know what your patients think about your services? Listen to what they say about you on social media. You’ll find out whether your staff is helpful or infuriating to your patients. You’ll find out how much the like the convenience of your services or how much they really hate sitting an hour and a half in your waiting room.

You can also help guide patients to reliable health information via platforms like Twitter or Facebook. If you direct them to accurate information, and refute the myths and misinformation that you often hear, you’ll waste less time trying to explain why the information they read on the dodgy website is not correct. 

Social media is also an excellent way to reach out to patients and build a practice. It can help you differentiate your practice or services from your competitors.

Evaluate tools carefully, and have a strategic plan for their use

As you can see, digital tools can help with your patient engagement goals. But none of the tools are a panacea on their own. What’s important is that you look carefully how each tool will fit into your workflows and fully integrate the tools that you adopt.

If you’d like to explore this topic in depth, please join us for a live webinar July 26th, at 2:00pm ET titled Patient Engagement: Strategies for Improving Outcomes and Experience While Lowering Costs. I will be presenting along with a senior analyst from the Everest Group and John DuBois, Managing director of customer engagement Dell Services. I hope you can join us and hope my own providers will be listening in too!

About the Author: Stephanie Bartels