New Year Resolution: More Effective Patient Engagement

By Debra Zalvan

Here’s what we know. Every interaction that patients have with their doctors, nurses and other staff—whether in the hospital or the doctor’s office—makes an impression and can impact health outcomes. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time during typical interactions to impart all of the knowledge and support patients need to confidently manage their care.

That’s why ongoing “follow-up” with patients is so critical for providing the accurate, useful and timely information patients need once they’ve returned home. Whether calling patients by phone, directing them to websites, or sending messages by text or email, we know that when patients have continued engagement with healthcare providers, it matters.

The 4 top research points below clearly show that this kind of follow-up drives patient understanding, builds trust and sets patient expectations – which are all important parts of value-based care.



1. Driving patient recall.  An oft-cited study of patients’ ability to remember medical information found that patients forget 40%–80% of what they hear at the doctor’s office as soon as they walk out the door. And nearly half the information remembered is remembered incorrectly. Another study tested recall after one week. At that point, 51% of patients could not remember the recommendations and treatment instructions their physician gave them without prompting. These studies highlight the need for reinforcement of care instructions and information before and after appointments and hospital stays.

2019 Tip: Implement patient adherence reminders through email or text messages so that you know your instructions are being repeated and reinforced between visits.

2. Establish your hospital as the trusted, go-to resource.  Right now, too many patients hope their healthcare providers will deliver ongoing advice, but aren’t receiving it. One national survey of new mothers found that they were getting inconsistent advice— or, in some cases, no information—from their doctors and nurses about certain aspects of infant and child care. Don’t leave the well-being of your patients up to their best online search. Become their most trusted resource, instead— because access to care management information can give your hospital or practice an edge that encourages patients to choose you over competitors.

2019 Tip: Give patients evidence-based health information and share it seamlessly within their lifestyle. The key is to ensure that patients receive it easily, in a way that smoothly integrates into the structure of their daily lives.

3. Set patient expectations to ensure satisfaction. Patient engagement efforts that set expectations for surgery or other procedures are considered a leading indicator of satisfaction. One study found that patient preparedness has the biggest impact on satisfaction: 72% of patients who reported that they went into surgery with a good idea of what would come afterward also reported that they were extremely satisfied with their surgery results, and only 8% reported post-surgical problems. In this same study, however, patients reported that setting expectations and increasing preparedness were the two areas that could use the most improvement—meaning they did not feel ready for their in-hospital experiences.

2019 Tip: Start early preparing patients for what to expect—from prep to procedure to post-op. Begin your communications weeks or months before surgery, so that questions and anxiety can be alleviated. Patients will appreciate your time and effort to better educate and prepare them.

4. Driving value-based care. Providing the best care while keeping costs down is essential for growth. This can be done by reducing hospital readmissions, complications, unnecessary cancellations and post-discharge ED visits. Consider that hospital readmissions account for 1/3 of all U.S. healthcare spending, yet 15%–20% of readmissions are considered preventable. Research shows that simple things such as listening to patients can result in a 32% reduction in readmission

2019 Tip: Develop and implement a digital program to stay connected with patients outside the care setting, so that they feel heard and can continue to learn about their health condition and care. Promoting recall, trust, expectation-setting and value will be critical for success in the New Year!



Debra Zalvan is Executive Vice President, Corporate of UbiCare, a Boston-based leading healthcare technology company empowering hospitals to create efficiencies and reduce costs by engaging patients throughout the care episode. Debra can be reached at www.ubicare.com and on Twitter @UbiCareDotCom

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