Most people are probably familiar with the English-language proverb, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And yes, there are many health benefits associated with eating apples, but what if people took that idea a step further and developed a healthy eating routine, exercised, and saw their doctors regularly? It’s likely they would feel better and have taken the proper steps in life to improve their overall health. We can say they are proactive, engaged, and in control of their wellness journeys.
Patient engagement is particularly important when it comes to managing chronic health conditions. According to the CDC, chronic diseases not only drive healthcare costs higher, but are the leading causes of disability and death in the U.S. Six in 10 Americans experience at least one chronic disease over the course of their lifetimes. Having a direct involvement with their provider, patients can better understand how to prevent onset of chronic diseases, sometimes hereditary, to treat symptoms at the initial stages and make informed lifestyle decisions, like healthy eating and conducting exercise routines, to live a longer, healthier, and happier life.
Patients with chronic conditions weigh heavily on the American hospital/provider systems. The resources and attention needed to treat chronic patients could be redirected towards treating critically ill patients, addressing mental health needs, and supporting crisis management.
By understanding the risks of unengaged patients and the lack of visibility to their healthcare activities, we can paint a clearer picture as to how the benefits of the rapid healthcare innovation in the 21st century can be fully leveraged — through proper adoption of patient experience, data driven actionable intelligence, and proactive engagements between a patient and their core care team.
What Patient Engagement Means
Patient engagement works when providers and patients come together to improve experiences and maximize health outcomes.
Providers can improve patient engagement through:
The positive efforts a provider makes are more apt to lead to higher patient engagement.
Engaged patients will presumably:
A study comparing the effects on patients receiving a normal versus an enhanced level of support, meaning greater interaction with trained health coaches in making medical treatment decisions, details the importance of patient engagement. Patients with greater engagement experienced lower medical costs, had fewer hospital admissions, and less preference-sensitive surgeries.
Physician engagement can lead to greater efficiency, better patient care, lower cost of care, and stronger relationships.
The Risks of Poor Patients Engagement
Imagine someone with limited or no collaboration with their doctor. This is a person who neglects their personal health and doesn’t prioritize seeking preventative or remedial medical help. One day, they end up in an emergency room with a severe life-threatening situation. This could have been prevented and cured at the very early stage, had they been in regular care under the supervision of the right physician.
Poor patient engagement not only proves risky for individuals, but also challenging for healthcare organizations as it puts caregivers/physicians at a disadvantage in relation to treatment plans as they have zero visibility of a patients’ health. When not engaged in their health journey, patients are also limiting their own opportunities to get educated on healthy living. In fact, patients are 3x more likely to have unmet medical needs, and 2x more likely to delay medical care. It is likely that later in their lives, people with low patient engagement will deal with chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Patients who are not empowered to make decisions about their health or are not seeking medical intervention for serious symptoms are positioning themselves for negative health outcomes, potentially resulting in death. This segues into costly consequences for healthcare organizations.
Noted earlier, chronic conditions are a heavy burden for the nation’s healthcare system. Patients with low engagement are very unlikely to adhere to necessary treatment advice from their physicians and that makes it especially difficult to treat chronic conditions. Medication non-adherence for patients with chronic diseases affects as many as 40% to 50% of patients who are prescribed medications to manage their conditions. This choice to ignore prescribed treatment causes at least 100,000 preventable deaths and $100 billion in preventable medical costs per year. Additionally, organizations can suffer higher costs due to patient readmission, leading to revenue loss. To think medication adherence and greater patient engagement can prevent numbers like this should truly be eye-opening.
Patients are further alienated when they lack the ability to connect with their care teams through the channels of their choice, including phone conversations, emails, chats, smart devices or self-service patient portals. Without a proper connection to healthcare providers, patient health journeys are impeded, resulting in diminished patient engagement.
How Patient Engagement Works
In this post-COVID world, people are demanding more convenience at a higher quality, including patients in the healthcare and life sciences sector. And so, increasing patient engagement can only happen when in-person best practices that have been adhered to for years are combined with innovative new remote care strategies. Digital patient engagement tools, such as online consultations and remote patient monitoring are helping deliver a higher level of care with more convenience to both patients and providers. This drives timely interventions, better health outcomes, while lowering total costs of care for both patients and their health insurance payers.
Implementing a proactive patient engagement framework in which all below-items work together to bridge the gap between providers and patients is essential.
Virtual care is convenient for patients, giving them access to care that enables them to live healthy, productive lives even when they can’t make in-person doctor visits. Because patients are less likely to miss their appointments, they usually experience better health outcomes, proving engaged patients are healthier patients.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Beyond virtual care, patients and providers come together through RPM. Providers can monitor important patient metrics from afar via IoT-enabled devices like watches. Having a real-time view of patient health conditions, providers can deliver preventative care and quickly respond to patient emergencies.
For healthcare providers, patient care delivery and improving a patients’ overall experience are both extremely important. Omnichannel patient engagement tools provide enhanced ways for patients to communicate with their providers in relation to care assessment or greater healthcare education, utilizing the media they are most comfortable with. Some technologies helping to augment patient engagement include mobile apps, chatbots, conversational texting, personalized patient education journeys and telehealth, in addition to the more traditional means like phone calls and emails.
Wellness Programs and Patient Education
Wellness programs and patient education can help to enrich the lives of patients, while removing barriers and complexities from their healthcare journeys. Being informed on ways to self-manage their conditions and incorporate wellness, like exercise, weight management or smoking cessation into their daily routines, can reduce hospital admissions and eliminate unnecessary trips to provider offices.
AI-Based Actionable Healthcare Insights
AI-based digital healthcare solutions are especially beneficial in relation to managing chronic conditions. Broader access to data changes the way physicians can deliver care to patients, and to intervene at the right moment, but also enables patients to take a more active role on their health journeys. Customized features, like food tracking and medication reminders, on patient portals, smart watches, or on mobile apps, enable patients to make better health decisions.
Patient Engagement Increases Treatment Plan Adherence and Improves Outcomes
Patient engagement is a way for healthcare providers to actively encourage patients to participate in their own health journey and make informed decisions. As providers work with their patients, trusting relationships are formed and many benefits, including lower costs and improved health outcomes, are realized by both parties.
Engaged patients are more likely to understand how to better handle their health conditions and adhere to medical plans that optimize their treatment and help mitigate effects from chronic conditions. With the advancement of technology, healthcare providers can introduce a complete patient engagement framework that helps patients take a more active role in their health journey and ultimately increase healthcare operations and outcomes.
Adherence to treatment plans help drive innovations in biopharmaceuticals and MedTech to make life-changing drugs and devices available to patients, offering cure and management of diseases where death was the only known outcome, even a few years ago. Better adherence means more accurate results during clinical trials, more accurate data available for adverse event monitoring, and more understanding of long-term benefits and side-effects.
Apexon focuses on delivering patient-centric care experiences, leveraging the latest tools, platforms, and strategies across the patient lifecycle to enhance engagement. Offering a robust and highly scalable engagement platform that supports personalized care delivery across every stage of the patient journey, our healthcare clients realize increased patient compliance, better outcomes, and a higher quality of patient life. Check out how Apexon applies a digital-first approach across healthcare or get in touch with us directly using the form below.