Patient engagement is the backbone to a successful telehealth program. Time and time again studies have shown that patients who are more involved in their care have better outcomes than their less engaged counterparts. But how do you build patient engagement when connecting with patients primarily through a device? You Practice.
Below are a few key things to consider when aiming to increase patient engagement (and looking to use telehealth and RPM to do it).
Know Your Audience
Understanding your patient population as a whole, and each patient individually, will help your clinicians build and increase patient engagement. This process of understanding your audience begins when initially outlining patient eligibility and continues each time your team evaluates individual patients for enrollment.
Telehealth and RPM allows clinicians to individualize patient care based on a patient’s condition, medical history, health literacy, and health confidence. For example, on a population level, deploying care plans allows providers to offer disease-specific education to help patients understand their conditions, symptoms, and treatments.
On a patient-level, symptom surveys are an easy and effective way to engage patients while gathering important information about their daily health. But symptom surveys can also be an excellent way to engage patients and personalize their care plan. Health Recovery Solutions offers care plans with predetermined questions based on diagnosis, but questions can be added or removed on an individual basis.
As an example, for some older patients unfamiliar with telehealth or for younger patients with busy routines, asking fewer questions each day may prove more beneficial in the long run, compared to asking a plethora of questions that overwhelm the patient and end up ignored.
Build Lasting Relationships
Establishing lasting engagement in a patient’s health begins at the onset of their episode of care. When interacting with patients, clinicians must encourage, motivate, and communicate. Encourage patients by fully explaining the telehealth platform and its benefits to them. Patients who are hesitant to enroll or use the telehealth platform are often comforted by the knowledge that there is no wrong way to use the platform, so long as they use it.
HRS’ Clinical Services team stresses the importance of installation visits and consistent follow-up in building strong clinician-patient relationships. Performing a follow-up call to patients the day after an installation visit or a week after to check-in can help increase patient engagement and build the relationship between the patient and your clinical team.
Be Open to Learning New Techniques
If you were to ask 10 different clinicians how their telehealth program increases patient engagement, you would likely receive ten different answers. New and unique approaches to patient engagement are constantly springing up and it’s important to try these techniques, even if your program has consistently reported high engagement. Returning to the theory of knowing your audience, a technique that works for one patient or population, may not work for another.
For example, one HRS partner in the Northeast performs daily calls to their patients. This workflow helps their clinical team build trust with their patients and remind patients of the numerous tools at their disposal through the telehealth platform. However, other programs (often with a younger patient population) have seen the same kind of success leveraging the text messaging feature within the HRS platform, reminding patients to record their vital sign, watch specific educational videos, or of an upcoming virtual visit.
Monitor Progress and Multiply Success
With a multitude of different techniques and opinions on how to increase patient engagement, it is critical to track the success of each new initiative and to expand or build up initiatives that work. For example, if your clinical team has opted to send daily text messages and perform daily calls, your team should track the response rates around these efforts.
In addition, HRS recommends working with your team to gather patient testimonials and feedback. Asking patients directly for feedback will help your team gain insight into which initiatives patients found beneficial and which they did not. You can also apply these learnings to the premise of knowing your audience, once again understanding that what does not work for one patient or patient population may still help another.
You can also gather feedback indirectly by encouraging clinicians to share stories from their interactions with patients. Not only does this create transparency on your team, it allows an opportunity to highlight and reward clinicians who have done an exceptional job comforting and engaging patients.