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Patient-centered engagement requires a new mindset

Pam Mortenson, EVP, strategic integration and market development for the healthcare practice of West Corporation
Pam Mortenson, EVP, strategic integration and market development for the healthcare practice of West Corporation

Value-based care and retail health are moving patients to the center of the healthcare ecosystem. This has prompted a change in perspective. Modern patients are engaged, proactive consumers who collaborate with their providers to manage their conditions, treatments, and day-to-day wellness within the confines of a healthcare setting and beyond.

How are providers going to reach these patients effectively? How will they personalize communications with patients? How will this change behaviors or improve outcomes?

Like any other enterprise-wide initiative, patient engagement begins with setting strategic goals. For example, if an organization wants to reduce costs and improve clinical outcomes, then specific departmental objectives – such as increasing immunization and screening rates, improving HEDIS measures, or reducing hospital readmissions – will need to support the larger strategic goal.

The challenge is to keep each department from reinforcing a silo mentality – pursuing separate approaches or investing in disparate solutions to support discreet initiatives. The Chief Patient Experience Officer (a role that is on the rise) or someone with an enterprise-view of the patient, should own the overarching strategy of how the organization is going to approach engagement from cultural, operational and technical points of view. This ensures patient-centered continuity, brand consistency and operational efficiency.

Technology, of course, plays a role. But such a significant shift in the provider-patient relationship is going to have cultural and workflow considerations.

Optimize current communication channels. Wearables and other healthcare consumer innovations are coming to market with astonishing speed, and the healthcare industry is discovering new and innovative ways to leverage these devices to drive clinical value. However, we shouldn’t forget about myriad other proven ways to communicate with patients, and ensure that those channels are integrated and optimized around the patient experience.

The contact center, for example, remains a critical hub of patient engagement, as are automated phone systems to capture biometric readings and provide basic self-service around prescription refills and account details. And SMS texts are highly effective when it comes to reminding patients to take their medications, reducing appointment no-shows, and prompting them to login to patient portals. The key is to understand patient demographics, offer communication across all relevant channels, secure appropriate consent, and ensure that communications are integrated.

Customize your communications. Whether it is face-to-face or by phone, text, or e-mail, everyone has a preferred method of communication. The success of patient activation depends significantly on your organization’s ability to capture how and when to reach patients. Knowing a patient prefers to receive real-time communication via secure SMS is just as important as knowing another patient likes the immediacy of a voice call, but after work hours. It’s one of the most immediate signatures of the retail mentality more patients are expecting from their healthcare providers.

Think macro. By necessity, many healthcare organizations have relationships with multiple healthcare communication vendors. However, this has often resulted in a patchwork of solutions that address specific departments or areas of need, but that lack the enterprise-wide view necessary to foster a value-based, patient-centric, team-focused model of care.

To combat this, organizations need a way to aggregate and provide interfaces to third-party communication providers for e-mail, SMS, voice, remote patient monitoring and other channels, so they can maintain relationships with existing providers, but still have the visibility into patient communications across all channels and departments.

Hospitals will have to adjust to being paid to keep people out of their facility, and technology is playing a key role in achieving that goal. But like so many aspects of modern healthcare, patients care more about interaction, not technology.

Chief Patient Experience Officer, HEDIS measures, patient engagement, reducing hospital readmissions, remote patient monitoring, SMS, West Corporation