“How motivated are they to take an active role in their own well-being? That’s the ultimate goal of health care — to have the most engaged patient you possibly can, to get the best possible outcome. In other words, the best way to have an engaged patient is to give them a great patient experience.”[i]
Dr. Greg Burke, Chief Patient Experience Officer, Geisinger
Patient engagement has been called everything from “the blockbuster drug of the 21st century”[ii] to the “one of the most overused terms in healthcare.”[iii] So where does the truth lie for hospitals and health systems who are seeking to understand how much to invest in patient engagement strategies? Several instruments have been developed to measure a person’s “activation” level about their health, most prominently the Patient Activation Measure (PAM) developed by Judith Hibbard, PhD. PAM scores have been correlated to a wide variety of health measures, and the evidence shows that patients who are engaged and activated about their own health cost less,[iv] [v] have better outcomes,[vi] [vii] and are more satisfied[viii] than those who are less engaged. By any measure, those are outcomes worth investing in, especially in an era of value-based care.
Join Jan Oldenburg in Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions 9/20/18 webinar: The Connected Hospital: Successful Engagement. Register now!
Some key strategies you can employ to make your organization more engaging and more likely to experience these enhanced outcomes are highlighted below:
- Convenience: A focus on making sure that every aspect of your institution’s interactions with patients and caregivers is convenient for THEM tells them that you have built your institution around their needs, not yours. Patients expect healthcare to offer the same convenient online tools they are used to using when shopping, banking, and entertaining themselves. Fulfilling this expectation includes providing digital tools so that patients can get access to their medical data and conduct basic transactions online—ranging from managing appointments to paying bills—and everything in between. Convenience goes beyond digital interactions, however. It includes taking a hard look at all aspects of your institution, from parking to referrals, pricing to cost estimates, and follow-up care, ensuring every function and interaction is convenient and centered on the needs of the patient.
- Connection: Building long-term loyalty and trust means paying attention to the ways your institution and your doctors, nurses, and other staff members establish relationships with both patients and their caregivers. Organizations such as University of Utah Health and Geisinger Health have pioneered approaches that include posting even negative physician reviews online.[ix] [x] [xi] These efforts increase transparency and trust with the community and, sensitively used, can help organizations and individuals increase the quality of the experiences they provide. Being congruent includes activities that increase transparency about quality, incorporating training on shared decision-making and listening, collecting and valuing patient stories, and embodying those perspectives in policy and practice.
- Empowerment and equality: Changes in patient expectations and the democratization of medical information are pushing physicians and institutions to shed paternalistic mindsets. Relying solely on the physicians’ advice is a model of the past; forward-thinking institutions must build processes that include patients’ input, perspective, and approval. Those institutions that build a culture of equality, empowering patients and caregivers with knowledge, including them in organizational decision-making, and supporting their autonomy with data and choices, will emerge as winners in the new healthcare economy. Building this kind of culture likely includes encouraging more egalitarian, or democratic, and team-based roles within your organization as well as in your relationships with patients and their families.
In our article, Acquiring Patients and Donors: Trust is the Foundation, we mentioned how important trust is in the process of acquiring new patients and donors. Trust is just as important when engaging them. All of the strategies noted above build trust in processes, in staff members, and in your institution. These core operational principles are supported by implementation approaches that include:
- Ensuring that everyone in the organization is clear about the team-based foundational principles and knows their roles in supporting them.
- Building meaningful opportunities for patients and caregivers to influence operational choices by including them in patient/caregiver counsels, bringing them into board and committee roles, and working with them on operational and system innovations.
- Building equally meaningful strategies for engaging and involving your physicians and staff. Employee engagement is a critical measure of an institution’s health, with studies showing that it increases revenue, margin, as well as patient engagement and satisfaction. Bringing all staff members into the design process is one way to build engagement at all levels.
- Creating a learning culture, where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for improvement. Innovation and experimentation are encouraged and recognized.
These approaches, which build engagement and trust with your patients, their families, and your staff members, are also the foundation for building relationships with prospective donors and retaining existing donors. Cultivating grateful patients for your foundation requires many of the same strategies that engaging patients requires. Everyone needs to know their role when approached by or approaching a grateful patient. Training is key. When physicians and staff are engaged in their work and aligned with the mission of the institution, they are great ambassadors for your foundation and its mission. When your organization is congruent in its policies and their implementation, and is focused on convenience, connection, and empowerment, it is easy to extend those principles into your fundraising endeavors.
- Join Jan Oldenburg in Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions 9/20/18 webinar: The Connected Hospital: Successful Engagement by registering here.
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