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What Is Digital Patient Engagement?

If you are reading this, I assume you are already somewhat aware of the significance of patient engagement. After all, you are reading an article on Digital Patient, the website of the American Medical Association. But just to clarify: What is digital patient engagement?

In plain English, it means using digital tools – such as online appointment schedulers, video consultations, and automated medication reminders – to actively involve patients in their care.

But what exactly does that mean in practice? And how can using digital tools to actively involve patients in their care make for better healthcare and a better experience for patients? Let’s explore.

Why Should Patients Be Engaged In Their Care?

Just like with any other aspect of healthcare, there are numerous benefits to having your patients engage with the healthcare team. For instance, research has shown that having a more engaged patient population results in more effective healthcare and a better experience for patients. To cite just a few examples:

  • patients who are more actively engaged in their care are less likely to be harmed by medical errors
  • they are more highly involved in decision-making concerning their care
  • they are more aware of their treatment options and side effects
  • they are more satisfied with their care
  • patients who are more engaged in their care have better outcomes
  • their healthcare utilization (e.g. number of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and office visits)
  • their healthcare costs are significantly lower
  • they are more likely to receive preventive care measures
  • they are more compliant with taking their medication as prescribed
  • their clinical trial enrollment rates are higher
  • they have higher retention rates in the healthcare system

What Are The Differences Between Different Types Of Patient Engagement?

There are several different types of patient engagement, each with its unique set of advantages. For example, there is structured patient engagement, which brings together patients and healthcare providers in an appointment-like setting to review their medical history, go over treatment options, and/or set a course of treatment. This type of engagement is excellent because it allows for detailed discussion and collaboration between patients and providers. It also provides a way for healthcare teams to get timely and comprehensive medical histories from patients.

Then there is self-management support, in which patients are given the tools and support they need to be actively involved in their care. This includes everything from providing patients with educational resources about their illness to actively engaging with them through discussion boards and forums.

Why should patients be involved in their care? It’s simple: Patients should be involved in their care because it makes them more engaged in their care. In turn, that makes for better healthcare and a better experience for patients. It also allows for better communication and deeper collaboration between patients and providers, leading to more effective healthcare. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it allows for better research and higher enrollment rates in clinical trials.

How Do I Engage My Patients In Their Care?

So you want to actively involve patients in their care. How exactly do you go about doing that? There are several different ways, all of which can be implemented easily and inexpensively.

To start, consider using online schedulers to replace the paper charts that have been the bane of healthcare providers for too long. This will eliminate the need to keep track of paper files and will give patients more transparency into their medical appointments. Further, if you already use a healthcare provider that is outside of your network, consider using the network to its advantage by offering patients a list of in-network facilities and their contact information. This can help increase patient engagement by making them more aware of the various options available to them.

Another way to involve patients in their care is through video communication. Studies have shown that using video visitations with patients can significantly increase patient engagement and satisfaction while also decreasing the healthcare provider’s workload. It is important to note that video visitations do not have to be limited to healthcare providers; it can be used to educate patients about their illness and treatment options. It can also be a great way for patients to ask questions about their care or to check in with providers to see how they are doing.

Some healthcare providers and facilities have adopted a digital walk-in clinic, in which patients can schedule an appointment online and then come in and walk-in to see a provider. This can increase patient engagement because patients can see that the healthcare provider is available and ready to see them. It also means that the healthcare provider does not have to waste time searching for the patient’s file or spending time explaining the details of their medical history to someone who is certainly well acquainted with it. Additionally, since the clinic is digital, there is absolutely no need to print out a paper file, which is likely to end up in the trash can somewhere once the patient leaves the office.

Another great way to involve patients in their care is through automated medication reminders. Patients who are regularly reminded to take their medications as instructed are significantly more likely to comply, leading to better health outcomes. This can be as simple as having a list of their medications and due dates posted on the wall in an easily visible location, or it can be as complex as setting up an automated email or text reminder a few days before the dose is to be taken.

As you can see, there are numerous ways to involve patients in their care. From scheduled appointments to email or text reminders, everything can be done digitally, which allows for much greater flexibility and portability. This makes it much easier for patients to get the care they need while also increasing their involvement in their care. And what is more, all of these tools and methods are relatively affordable and easy to implement. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put my iPad to bed and get some sleep. Tomorrow is a big day, and I cannot afford to be half-baked. But I’ll see you again soon, I’m sure.

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