A 2021 Guide to Choosing a Patient Engagement Platform

April 28, 2021 - by Pamela Ellgen

Patient engagement platforms have never been more important, as the pandemic has hugely disrupted how healthcare is distributed and accessed.

Realizing how important the patient voice should be in developing and executing patient experience strategies, 67% of providers identify an improved approach to patient engagement as a core element in optimizing patient experience.

What is patient engagement?

Patient engagement is when patients are actively involved in their care and considered valued decision makers in the process. Importantly, doctor patient relationships are characterized by trust and compassion. Engaged patients are:

  • Informed — they understand their health status and the recommended treatment.
  • Heard — they communicate with their providers and participate in shared decision making.
  • Empowered — they believe they have the ability to change their health outcomes.

Key to creating informed, heard, and empowered patients is communication. Providers need to embrace modern patient engagement solutions and other emerging healthcare technologies. Why? Because this is what patients want. Provders that refuse or delay to modernize their services are at risk of losing up to 26% of their patients.

The difference between patient engagement and patient experience

Patient engagement is active — how a patient participates in their care. Whereas patient experience is passive — how a patient receives and perceives their care. Engagement has a clear interactive component.

Both experience and engagement matter, and both aim to improve outcomes. Higher patient engagement was associated with nine out of 13 positive health outcomes in a study published in the journal Health Affairs in 2014. Outcomes included better clinical indicators, more healthy behaviors, and greater use of preventive care.

Patient engagement entails the integration of patients into the providers’ development of their procedures, policies, and practices. With patients more involved, healthcare organizations are able to create and offer services and features patients want rather than what the hospital administrations want.

Patient engagement can be seen as one of two crucial elements that drive patient experience. The other key element is care coordination.

What is a patient engagement platform?

There are a variety of ways to engage patients. What does it mean to engage patients via a platform? Exactly what is a patient engagement platform?

A patient engagement platform is a tool that allows patients to interact with their care providers via their mobile device, tablet, or computer. It bridges the gap between providers, patients, and third-party patient engagement software companies and keeps patients involved in their care even when they’re not within the four walls of a hospital.

When properly and effectively implemented, patient engagement platforms help streamline access to medical records and provide appointment reminders, enable self-scheduling for patients, and delivery of patient education.

Adoption of patient engagement software has dropped during the pandemic, from 48% in 2018 to 35% in 2020, according to a 2020 Accenture report. That said, 55% of healthcare consumers said they would have embraced patient engagement technologies had a trusted healthcare worker encouraged them. Unfortunately, only 11% of patients reported discussing patient engagement solutions with their providers.

Although adoption has slowed down, patient engagement software and other related solutions are set to become permanent features of the healthcare landscape. The global market for patient engagement technology is set to balloon to $41.20 billion by 2027, says a 2021 market report.

Are portals patient engagement platforms?

Although patient portals are sometimes seen as platforms for patient engagement, patient adoption of portals is surprisingly low. And for those patients who do log in, portal access doesn’t necessarily correlate with better outcomes.

Ultimately, a tool that isn’t used isn’t effective. Patients are looking for engagement platforms that meet them where they are — on their phones — and don’t require a separate login.

In a 2018 report on patient engagement, KLAS Research observed, “Patients seem to respond much more favorably to patient outreach tools that push communication and education directly to their ever-present smartphones.”

Patients have grown more willing to engage providers. A recent healthcare consumer report revealed that 70% of patients will trust physicians with their COVID-19 health data. The more convenient that providers can make this sharing, the better.

What to look for in a patient engagement platform:

For all providers, there is a need to ramp up patient engagement strategies and implement newer engagement technologies.

To really drive patient engagement strategies to success and fully derive great value from patient engagement tools, providers must leverage these solutions with patients’ needs front and center. Patient engagement platforms must be used to serve the patient’s voice, via which providers are able to determine how to best deploy their expertise and services to their patients.

The success of patient engagement strategies healthcare hinges on numerous factors. Chief among them is partnering with the best patient engagement software vendor, based on your needs and prevailing laws and industry standards. When you’re in the market for a patient engagement software, see that the products you’re reviewing carry the following capabilities:

  • Interactive, real-time patient communication
    Meaningful connection is inherent to the definition of engagement. Therefore, any patient engagement platform you choose should enable bidirectional communication, specifically text-based messaging. That is to say, patients should be able to respond to and initiate contact with your health system.
  • Keyword Actions and chatbot functionality
    Not every interaction with patients needs staff input. This is why the use of keywords and chatbots is a trend within patient engagement ideas. A patient engagement software solution should allow for automated responses to common questions, such as, “Where are you located?” The platform should also allow keywords to trigger automations, such as scheduling a ride with Uber Health for patients who need a lift.
  • Sentiment analysis
    Since patient engagement involves understanding patients on a deeper, emotional level, one of the best patient engagement ideas is to leverage sentiment analysis technology. By analyzing a patient’s sentiment, providers are able to recognize when a patient is frustrated or happy and respond promptly — before patients take to Twitter or receive a CAHPS survey.
  • Multilingual support
    Some of your patients speak a language other than English, and so should your patient engagement platform.
  • EMR integration
    A patient engagement software solution should integrate with your EMR. For example, the platform should be able to receive information from the EMR, such as a referral or recall, and write back to the EMR.
  • Portal enrollment
    There’s still a place for the patient portal. So, whatever patient engagement platform you choose should be able to drive patients to the portal.
  • Integration with other vendors
    As much as you want one app to solve it all, that’s just not feasible, and it’s not even in your or your patients’ best interests. Instead, choose best in class patient engagement software companies that integrate seamlessly with your other vendors. For example, a patient engagement platform could offer billing features or even better, integrate with a billing vendor.
  • Employee adoption
    Acceptability to your staff is essential for any patient engagement platform. In other words, if your employees don’t like the new technology, it’s not going to fulfill its potential.

A 2020 survey on patient engagement found that healthcare providers and vendors’ goals and desires aren’t always aligned with those of their patients. But by leveraging a patient engagement solution that places great value on patients, providers are able to build and augment stronger relationships with them.

Remember, patient engagement strategies must place patients’ needs and welfare at their core, to be successful and rewarding for patients, providers, and vendors.

Why WELL offers the best patient engagement software

WELL offers interactive, real-time patient communication. It enables conversation between patients and your staff and offers automations to improve efficiency and get your patients the answers they need right away. WELL offers multilingual support in 19 different languages, including Spanish, French, German, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean.

WELL integrates with the leading EMRs and third-party vendors, enabling billing, transportation, sentiment analysis, and more. One leading health system in southern California used WELL to increase portal enrollment by 19 percent across all sites. Finally, WELL is easy to implement and staff love it, which is why WELL is one of the top rated patient engagement platforms on G2 and Capterra, leading one end user to say, “I love WELL so much. It makes getting in contact with patients so quick, easy, and stress FREE. I know our patients are also loving it as well. Cuts our time spent on phones in half.”

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