Patient engagement is the process by which patients become engaged in their own, and their family members’ healthcare. It is an active collaboration between patients and healthcare providers to achieve positive health outcomes.

Effective patient engagement strategies are crucial to achieve the ‘triple aim’ of healthcare – patient experience of care, advancing population health, and reducing costs.

1. Define the organisation’s vision for patient engagement

‘Reducing patient care costs’ and ‘improving patient outcomes’ are visions that lack genuineness. Having discussions with senior leadership, board staff, patients and their families regarding their interpretations of patient engagement can help an organisation develop its own unique definition.

An “end state” vision of what the practice should look like can then be formed, which will facilitate development of patient engagement strategies. For example, an end state vision could be a practice where no patients are on hold, as they have already completed check-in paperwork before arriving, and have been reminded of their appointments by phone.

2. Create and maintain clear strategies

A National eHealth Collaborative survey in 2012 indicated that only 8% of providers said they have a “very clearly defined patient engagement strategy” - even though 53% of respondents said patient engagement is a very high priority within their organizations. Leadership is needed to create and maintain clear patient engagement strategies that are also flexible enough to accommodate change.

Patient engagement tactics should not be confused with strategies, however, as several tactics can be used to support a strategy. In a strategy to make healthcare available on the go, the Singapore National Eye Centre’s My Eye-Drops app guides and reminds patients when to take their medication so that they can better manage their own eye health.

SingHealth’s Health Buddy app helps patients locate general practitioners (GPs) so that they can visit GPs in their vicinity instead of using hospitals’ accident and emergency departments - supporting a strategy to use technology in matching patients with providers.

3. Employ appropriate metrics to measure progress

Using the organisation’s patient engagement vision, achievable targets can be set along with ways to measure progress. Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) recommends that health providers evaluate return of investment from patient engagement based on efficiency savings, improved outcomes of care and additional revenue from avoiding surgical cancellations.

Other appropriate metrics include rate of patient portal adoption, level of medication adherence, or referrals of family members to have a yearly physical – all of which reflect the progress of the tactical plan.

4. Personalised Engagement Chain (PEC)

For each patient engagement solution, there should be a measure of success. Progress can be easily tracked by collecting data on the baseline of metrics that are expected to improve, and regularly reviewing these metrics.

It may take time to see outcomes in patient engagement, but eventually organisations will have a good idea of what makes the most impact in patient engagement. Organisations should regularly review original plans, look into improvement suggestions and adjust less effective tactics.

5. Create a culture of engagement

Gaining practice-wide support is crucial for successful patient engagement. Actively involving a practice’s leadership, staff, providers and patients in creating the patient engagement vision effectively flattens hierarchy, and builds enthusiasm about implementing it.

Staff should be on-board with the idea that patient engagement is important to practice, by improving care delivery, patient experience, and increasing revenue. All staff should also be comfortable with completing tasks, ideally having rewards and recognition added to the process. For example, the Singapore Patient Engagement Initiative Award recognises outstanding patient engagement projects or initiatives. MIMS

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