Improving Patient Engagement: 7 Best Practices for Facilities

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Written by Danielle Roques, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse shares a moment with one of her patients.

A primary goal of healthcare organizations is to improve health outcomes and satisfaction scores for the patients in their care. Unfortunately, there are multiple personal, organizational, and societal factors that inhibit patient self-advocacy and limit treatment effectiveness. How can facilities empower their patients to be invested in their healthcare experience and achieve optimal wellness?

Healthcare providers can improve patient empowerment and treatment plan buy-in by developing patient engagement strategies that appeal to unique patient needs. Creating engagement interventions that prioritize the patient experience can help facilities boost patient satisfaction scores, improve health outcomes, reduce facility costs, and optimize staff job satisfaction.

In this article, we review the importance of a patient’s engagement throughout their healthcare journey and provide five potential solutions your facility can use to optimize patient satisfaction and engagement.

What Is Patient Engagementin Healthcare?

Engagement in healthcare is defined as the process of involving patients in their own care experience by empowering patients, encouraging strong patient-provider relationships, and allowing shared decision-making. The following three factors influence a patient’s engagement:

  • Personal Factors: This refers to the patient’s education level, health literacy, trust in the healthcare system, and beliefs about their role in managing their own care.
  • Organizational Factors: These are the facility policies and procedures, culture, and level of staff engagement.
  • Societal Factors: This includes the social determinants of health, social norms, and local regulations, policies, and laws.

Why Is Patient Engagement Important?

When patients are invested in their own care, educated about the treatment process, and satisfied with the quality of care they receive, they’re more adherent to treatment protocols and therefore have better health outcomes. However, improving patient health isn’t the only motivation for optimizing the patient experience. Other benefits of patient engagement include:

  • Stronger Patient Loyalty: When patients are satisfied in their care, they’ll keep returning to the same facilities and providers.
  • Lower Healthcare Costs: Healthier patients don’t need to access healthcare systems as frequently as others. This is demonstrated in reduced emergency department visits, lower hospital readmission scores, and shorter lengths of stay among patients who are engaged. It’s important to note that lower costs benefit both facilities and patients receiving care.
  • Higher Staff Career Satisfaction: Healthcare providers who are involved in quality improvement (QI) strategies to improve engagement are more motivated and excited to go to work. Nurses and other care providers enjoy working in healthcare when they’re able to help people — seeing patients get better faster gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment.

How to Increase Patient Engagement: 5 Best Practices

The majority of healthcare providers (76%) believe that they make it easy for patients to take responsibility for their own care. However, only 54% of patients are satisfied by facility efforts to include them in care planning efforts.

This discrepancy between the perspectives of patients and providers highlights the need for engagement solutions that appeal to patients and make a real difference in their care experience. Below, we outline five ways facilities can improve engagement and optimize the quality of care they’re able to provide.

1. Develop a Model of Patient-Centered Care

Patient-centered care addresses the unique needs of each individual and encourages partnerships between patients and their healthcare providers. Respecting preferences and tailoring care strategies to suit each patient’s needs shows respect and compassion. You can help to foster more patient-centered care by implementing practices such as:

  • Referring to patients by name and using their preferred pronouns during conversations and in their medical records.
  • Involving patients and their family members in goals-of-care discussions.
  • Participating in active listening during patient encounters and encouraging clinical questioning throughout patient teaching sessions.

2. Increase Healthcare Provider Visibility

Nearly 42% of nursing professionals report that they aren’t able to spend enough time with patients to establish meaningful relationships. Additionally, 29% of doctors are dissatisfied with the amount of face-to-face time they spend with patients and express feeling rushed during important conversations.

It’s important to build trust during these interactions to encourage patient buy-in and self-advocacy. In order to address care deficiencies, it’s important that facility leaders develop system-wide policy changes to promote greater provider visibility.

Instead of prioritizing the number of patients seen per day, focus on providing high-quality care to each one. Dedicate more time to each patient encounter to make sure that they feel seen and heard.

3. Utilize Home-Monitoring Strategies to Encourage Self-Advocacy

Patient engagement tools shouldn’t only be used inside care facilities. It’s important to address patient needs throughout their healthcare journey and encourage them to participate in healthcare promotion activities at home and in their community.

One way facility leaders can do this is to promote goal setting during teaching sessions and provide patients with the equipment and tools necessary to track health trends between care visits. Here are a few examples:

  • Does a patient have difficulty managing hypertension? Provide them with a home-monitoring blood pressure cuff to track daily readings between care appointments.
  • Is your patient prediabetic and looking for ways to manage their blood sugar without medication? Send them home with a blood sugar monitor and a food journal to track readings prior to their next check-up.
  • Are the parents of a newly discharged infant fearful that their baby isn’t gaining weight appropriately? Give them an infant scale to document daily weights, and provide a measuring tape so they can track weekly length, abdominal girth, and head circumference measurements.

Providing patients with the tools to track their progress can reassure them that they’re meeting health goals. Alternatively, such tools can also alert them when their numbers may be heading in the wrong direction and can prompt earlier medical intervention.

Encouraging patients to take part in their own health maintenance empowers them to meet health goals and prepares them for future discussions with their providers. Also, it’s helpful for healthcare staff to follow a patient’s vital sign trends over prolonged periods to adjust care strategies when necessary and optimize health outcomes.

4. Collect Patient Experience Data to Develop Engagement Goals

There are numerous ways facilities can solicit feedback from patients and their family members. Sending out patient experience surveys, hosting feedback meetings, and conducting phone interviews can highlight opportunities for improving the patient experience. Facility leaders who have access to these patient opinions are able to develop engagement strategies that are meaningful and effective.

5. Build Telehealth Care Strategies That Meet Patients Where They Are

Technological advancements require facilities to adjust the way they communicate with patients. Developing digital communication platforms and telehealth tools that appeal to patients can encourage them to actively participate in their own care.

Build HIPAA-compliant digital messaging platforms to encourage collaboration among care providers, patients, and their family members. Sending email reminders and electronic health record (EHR) notifications can reduce missed appointments and save patients and hospitals money.

Tip: It’s important to remember that telehealth is not a “one size fits all” approach. Facilities need to cater to unique generational and cultural needs when building digital health platforms. Ask patients their preferred method of communication and give them telephone, email, instant messaging, and video chat options for receiving care.

Discover More Ways to Improve the Patient Experience and Provide High-Quality Care

Understanding the importance of developing patient engagement solutions can boost staff satisfaction scores and help healthcare facilities meet clinical and financial goals. Follow along in our free IntelyCare newsletter for more expert insights into optimizing patient empowerment and improving your facility’s quality of care.