Engaged patients receive better care and experience improved health outcomes. For many years, ways of increasing patient engagement were sidelined or neglected entirely.
Increasing awareness of the importance of this key metric has shifted the balance rapidly. There are four core principles of patient engagement every healthcare professional today needs to be familiar with.
1. Engagement Needs to be Meaningful
Improve press ganey scores and other measures of patient engagement, and a healthcare organization can qualify for higher reimbursement rates and other perks. However, simple surveys do not always reflect the factors that are most important about patient engagement.
Healthcare providers need to be trained not only to engage patients but to do so in ways that are personally meaningful to each individual. That means accounting for the most important health-related issue in every case, but also even more individuating details like goals, preferences, living conditions, habits, and background.
Making meaningfulness a core principle of patient engagement will ensure that the forest will not be overlooked for the trees. Patients need to be engaged in personally appropriate ways if all the well-established benefits are to follow.
2. Engagement Has to be Maintained as Progress is Made
The point of focusing on patient engagement is to deliver better care and produce improved outcomes. In many cases, engagement begins to slip as soon as a bit of progress becomes apparent.
That can sometimes be attributed at least partially to patients who are not committed to long-term participation and activation. Even in such cases, it will ultimately be health providers who need to step in to up the level of engagement.
Progress reports that detail not only observed results but also goals yet to be achieved can help patients stay engaged and determined. Groups like the National Association of Community Health Centers have put together guides that cover all the relevant best practices.
3. Engage Patients on Equal Ground
Stories about aloof or even conceited doctors have been legion in the healthcare industry for many years. Such accomplished, highly capable people sometimes have trouble relating appropriately to the public.
Unfortunately, that can get in the way of productive patient engagement even when a sincere effort is being made to promote it. Healthcare providers need to start by seeing patients as equals before they can hope to encourage truly productive engagement.
This can take some soul searching and effort, especially for healthcare professionals who are not naturally gifted at working with people. There is no other way to ensure, though, that patient engagement will be authentic, persistent, and helpful.
4. Engagement Does Not Mean Indulgence
Engaged patients tend to participate more actively in their healthcare, and that is a truly positive thing in general. Healthcare providers always have important roles to play, though, and these cannot be abandoned just because patients are happy at center stage.
Formerly passive and ambivalent patients can become surprisingly assertive and ambitious once they start to feel engaged. Healthcare professionals need to be ready to moderate or redirect any unproductive, ill-advised impulses to make sure that healthcare quality keeps rising.
That can easily mean being forced to say “no” to a request that comes from an uninformed place. Healthcare professionals should applaud patient engagement but also be ready to keep it in check when necessary.
Engaged Patients are Always Better Off
Being familiar with these four core principles of patient engagement will make it easier to cultivate and leverage this potentially powerful state of affairs. Engaged patients inevitably fare better than those who feel detached from the healthcare they need.