Healthcare News & Insights

How to engage patients in 2018

In the transition to value-based care, patient engagement has become health care’s biggest issue. According to a recent study commissioned by Change Healthcare, there’s still a lot of work to be done in this area. The survey of more than 1,100 hospitals, insurance companies and patients found that patient engagement strategies are falling short of digital-age consumer demands – despite significant healthcare IT investments.

In this guest post, Chris Byers, CEO of a company that offers online forms and a data-collection platform, explains why mobile patient engagement is the answer patients are looking for and demanding.


The patient engagement problem

The focus of this year’s Change Healthcare study is a departure from previous years, and with good reason: An increasing number of providers and payers are devoting resources to creating more consumer-like patient experiences. So rather than examine the state of value-based reimbursement models, as was done in 2014 and 2016, the 2017 survey looked at how those investments are paying off.

So far, it appears that attempts to increase patient engagement in health care aren’t yet where providers and payers want them to be. Investing in patient engagement solutions was a top priority for 72% of providers and 80% of payers surveyed. But while a quarter to a third of healthcare IT investments – software, websites and even staffing changes – were tied to patient engagement goals, there’s still a big gap between what’s being provided and what patients want.

Seventy-two percent of polled patients said their experiences with providers and health plans has either stayed the same or worsened over the last two years. Only 21% reported an improved experience.

The reason?

Often, it’s the design of patient engagement tools that remains a barrier.

“Just because you have a patient portal or telehealth doesn’t mean they’ve been put together in a way that’s usable or understandable,” one digital health director told Modern Healthcare.

In an era when so much is done digitally, it’s not enough to simply invest in patient engagement technology. Until patients engage with those solutions, they won’t lead to better outcomes.

The solution: Mobile patient engagement

As value-based patients become more invested in managing their healthcare, their demand for more consumer-like experiences will likely grow. And based on behavior, that means mobile is a must: three-quarters of Americans own smartphones, and many of them have become accustomed to interacting with their phones an average of 13 times per hour.

With real-time data available at their fingertips, patients have even greater expectations of convenience and efficiency. Providers need to be proactive by engaging patients and creating high-quality experiences. This means giving patients easy access to forms and health information, putting necessary safeguards in place to protect patient information, offering timely appointment scheduling and keeping wait times down.

Yet just 13% of patient engagement investments in Change Healthcare’s study were going toward mobile solutions. Based on this information, the solution seems clear: It’s time to turn toward mobile healthcare solutions.

As we ease into 2018, it’s a great time to be thinking about a mobile patient engagement strategy. If there’s one challenge every healthcare practice faces, it’s managing patient data. Mobile health care offers an easy way to collect patient information and consolidate data. Something as simple as a series of mobile online forms can make it significantly easier to access healthcare information, improve patient flow and collect important feedback that can be used to improve the overall patient experience.

Chris Byers is the CEO of Formstack, an Indianapolis-based company offering online forms and a data-collection platform.

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