Leveraging Tools to Elevate Patient Engagement During COVID-19 and Beyond

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By David Cohen

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the use of patient engagement solutions was on the rise. More than 78% of patients had used a patient portal, and a growing number indicated they would switch doctors for one who offered better online access. The spike in use was being spurred on by patients’ desire to self-manage care, as well as favorable government regulations and awareness initiatives. As a result of these factors, the market for patient engagement tools has been expected to increase 4x to $56.92 billion by 2026

We can only anticipate an even higher jump in use following COVID-19. During times of uncertainty, patients want more open and responsive relationships with their providers, especially as it pertains to information related to the prevention and treatment of a highly contagious, novel virus. And while the interpersonal relationship between patients and providers is critical for engagement, technology plays an even greater role in the provider/patient relationship during a global pandemic – especially when many individuals are staying at home. 

Three Key Components for Enhancing Patient Engagement During COVID-19

As healthcare professionals, it’s essential to have the tools and technologies necessary to seamlessly communicate with patients, helping to foster closer ties, increase transparency and drive better results. 

Here are three components to enhancing patient engagement while reducing the administrative workload for providers throughout the pandemic. 

1Messaging Capabilities

About 60% of patients, on average, say that one of the most important aspects of their healthcare satisfaction is provider responsiveness to questions via email or phone outside of appointments. Furthermore, 69% indicated they’re more likely to choose a medical provider who communicates through secure email

Offering both secure email and text solutions, as well as voice messaging, enables providers to extend their care outside of traditional office hours and provides a personal touch, while fostering two-way communications with patients. Messaging capabilities also allow providers to easily send COVID-19 updates, news and resources and to answer patient questions directly and securely. This type of proactive outreach is not simply a nice to have, but is increasingly a patient demand, as 70% of patients prefer to see providers who send automated reminders

As some practices may be experiencing fewer appointment requests during this time, this can also enable providers to stay engaged with their patients who may otherwise have not thought to reach out with a question or make an appointment during the pandemic.

2Appointment Scheduling

Whether an in-office visit or telehealth meeting, it’s important to remind patients about their upcoming appointments. Furthermore, some practices may be experiencing an increase in appointment requests as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. In these instances, a patient engagement platform can provide an easy-to-navigate view of all requests, real-time availability for each provider, and the option to limit availability to ensure schedules do not get overbooked.  

In an environment where convenience is a priority, this will not only reduce frustrating back-and-forth communications, but allow practices to efficiently fill openings and improve the patient experience overall. In fact, a recent survey noted that 68% of U.S. patients would choose a medical provider that offered the ability to book, change or cancel appointments online over a provider that did not provide this convenience. 

3Accessing Information

With an overwhelming amount of daily COVID-19 news, patient engagement platforms can be a gateway for patient education. Providers can share tips for managing health and alert patients of the latest updates and information on the virus. Such educational efforts not only improve patient engagement, but are shown to improve health outcomes overall. 

In addition, patient engagement platforms provide patients the ability to easily access their medical records, lab orders and test results online.In fact,more than 83% of patients using a portal access test results and nearly 60% view their personal health records. With rapid acceleration in COVID-19 testing and a pressing need to inform patients of their results as soon as possible, giving patients the autonomy to access this information is not only convenient for the patient, but it also saves practice staff time and reduces the need to make phone calls or fax records with results.

As patients become increasingly more central in the evolving healthcare equation and physicians seek to navigate a challenging environment, it’s important for providers to examine their practices and develop strategies to further support their patients. While there is no substitute for building a one-on-one rapport with patients, providers can use technology to forge stronger bonds and empower patients to become more active participants in managing their care and achieving improved outcomes. This is not only crucial now during the management of COVID-19, but will be an expectation of patients throughout 2020 and beyond. 

About the Author

Chief Product and Technology Officer at Greenway Health, David Cohen is passionate about technology solutions that allow practices to thrive. He has more than 20 years of enterprise information technology leadership experience, with the most recent 15 years focused on healthcare. Service is core to David’s philosophy. He is committed to serving as a trusted partner to customers and helping them address the healthcare needs of their patients and communities.

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