Communication tools can help improve patient engagement by providing on-demand patient access to their providers and caregivers. Download our free infographic to understand how virtual visits, language tools, and more, can help improve patient engagement.
2. Health Literacy
Health literacy, a patient’s ability to use, obtain, and process certain health information is a common barrier to patient engagement and activation. Current data suggests that about one third of American adults, or 89 million people, have insufficient health literacy skills. Without the tools and information to seek the care they need, these patients are twice as likely to report poor health outcomes.
A patient who is highly activated likely also has high health literacy. This person is by definition motivated to take control of their health, understands the steps to doing so, and has the ability to obtain the resources they need to effectively manage their condition.
Conversely, patients with low health literacy may recognize the importance of taking control of their own health but are unable to take the steps to do so due to insufficient understanding and knowledge.
Addressing the Challenge
To improve health literacy, providers need to meet patients where they are, and deliver care and patient education that meets a patient’s health literacy level. Using a patient health literacy assessment is a great first step, as is delivering patient education at about a fifth-grade reading level, or even in simpler language.
Understanding the patient’s baseline knowledge and what they already know about their condition allows the provider and patient to work together to create meaningful goals. When incorporating new tools into the patient's care plans, like telehealth, it's important to value the importance of patient education. This ensures patient's are set up for success.
Strategies to Improve Health Literacy
- Custom condition-specific educational videos
- Teach back quizzes
- Provide education in patient preferred formats (demonstrations, graphics, brochures, videos, one-on-one teaching, checklists etc.)
- Share appointment notes
- Learn what the patient knows, correct misinformation
- Include family members and caregivers
- Help the patient understand symptom trends
To understand how providers are leveraging these strategies with telehealth tools to improve education, download our free infographic.
3. Social Determinants of Health
The social determinants of health are “conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.”
These factors can hinder patients from obtaining good health outcomes. Often, the social determinants of health get in the way of a patient’s self-management plan. For example, a patient who does not have electricity, will not be able to charge their remote patient monitoring equipment. A patient who lives in a food desert and is food insecure will not be able to adhere to taking their medications on a full stomach. A patient who lives far from a healthcare facility, will not be able to access the services they need to achieve good health.
Addressing the Challenge
Healthcare providers must consider the social determinants of health before and during the delivery of patient care. Does the person have a strong social network, access to healthy food, a plan for medication management? Understanding the patient’s lived environment can help the provider customize the care plan to each patient’s unique needs.
Strategies to Address the Social Determinants of Health:
- Leverage SDOH screenings
- Prescribe affordable food options
- Connect patients with food and affordable housing options through partnerships
- Offer medical transportation
- Provide alternatives to in person care with telehealth
- Combat social isolation
Many healthcare organizations have also turned to telehealth to help address these challenges. It is beneficial to cater care plans according to a patient’s needs or limitations. Being cognizant about a patient’s social circumstances allows a provider to drive patient activation in a more realistic, empathetic way.
4. Patient Trust
The patient must trust their provider for patient activation to be possible. If a patient does not trust the healthcare organization or establishment as a whole, it is unlikely they will be able to obtain the level of patient activation necessary to improve outcomes.
Lacking patient trust stems from limited cultural competency, and the history some populations, for example Black and Hispanic populations have with the healthcare ecosystem.
Addressing the Challenge
Valuing cultural competency is the first step. Cultural competency is the openness and willingness to learn from patients—to allow them to be in the driver's seat of their healthcare. Defined, cultural competency is “the ability of systems to provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs and behaviors, including the tailoring of health care delivery to meet patients' social, cultural and linguistic needs.”
When providers are able to deliver culturally competent care, they can build more trust with their patient. This results in an activated patient who is open to partnering with their provider to reach their healthcare goals.
Strategies to Establish Patient Trust
- Focus on empathy and body language
- Provide access to the patient portal to involve patients in the healthcare process
- Offer culturally responsive patient care
- Create a non-judgmental environment and avoid “medical fat shaming” as a strategy to motivate behavior change
- Level with the patient—be transparent about treatment and prognosis
- Educate staff to be aware of bias