The rise of healthcare consumerism has made patient-centered engagement strategies more important to hospitals and medical practices. Technology has allowed these organizations to develop new ways to provide patients better access to care while helping empower them to stay healthier longer.
Telemedicine is a form of virtual house call, where technology brings the clinician to the patient via a digital transmission on a smartphone or computer.
Far from being just a technology just designed to extend care to patients in rural areas, new partnerships for telehealth applications seek to increase consumer engagement by bringing healthcare directly to patients instead of making them come to the provider.
What Patient Engagement Really Means
“We’ve been a bit hospital and healthcare system-centric and we’re flipping that model to be more patient-centric and to think about how we can put the patient back at the center of the model.”
Patient engagement has become a buzzword for everything from a computer kiosk to social media to remote monitoring for population health initiatives. Generally, it seems the idea of patient engagement is about using technology to empower patients to take a more active role in their care. Online appointment scheduling, bill payment, and HIPAA-secured portals that allow patients access to provider tests are just some of the ways healthcare organizations have grappled with the idea of patient engagement. Healthcare IT News suggested patient engagement encompasses:
A concept that combines a patient's knowledge, skills, ability and willingness to manage his own health and care with interventions designed to increase activation and promote positive patient behavior.
HIMSS suggests a slightly different definition:
Providers and patients working together to improve health. A patient’s greater engagement in healthcare contributes to improved health outcomes, and information technologies can support engagement. Patients want to be engaged in their healthcare decision-making process, and those who are engaged as decision-makers in their care tend to be healthier and have better outcomes.
What both definitions seem to encompass is the idea of leveraging technology tools to empower patients in their care. Telemedicine can expand patient access to care to anywhere there is a digital connection. Offering healthcare via a device as close as your smartphone is widely seen as a way to make healthcare more engaging for a wider group of people.
Telehealth brings doctors to the patient in new ways by:
- Delivering care to patients in remote or rural settings. Patients in rural areas often travel to receive treatment. The cost and time this takes could worsen outcomes for that patient, who may decide to skip follow-up or preventative care because the hassle of trying to receive it is so high. With telemedicine, these patients can receive access to specialized care their community may not offer, such as behavioral health counseling. This is especially beneficial for high-risk populations.
- Increasing access to medical treatment anywhere and at any time. Consumer populations lead busy lives, so taking time to wait in a traditional office setting is often simply not possible. Telemedicine is anytime care that can be a more convenient alternative to time spent waiting on a doctor. It’s another barrier to care that can be dismantled thanks to telemedicine technology innovation. Telehealth makes healthcare more convenient for patients, thus influencing them to pursue treatment more frequently.
But it’s important to note that telemedicine is just one piece of robust and effective patient engagement strategies. Empowering patients takes long-term effort to create new partnerships between clinicians and their customers. No matter the size of your practice, you could:
- Offer patients access to their medical records and test results online. More than 40% of healthcare consumers say they would switch providers if the doctor offered a secure patient communications portal.
- Offer patients secure email and texting. A 2019 study showed that patients prefer secure texting to patient portal communications from their doctor.
- Make your practice mobile-first. Most Americans are now cellphone-savvy, and the studies show smartphone adoption even among low-income users is high. Adoption rates are even high for your senior patients; four in 10 seniors own smartphones. Healthcare organizations must ensure their websites and other digital patient information are suitable for any screen. They must also avoid assuming their baby boomer patients are not online.
- Offer virtual healthcare visits to increase the convenience of your service offerings, stay connected with patients, and increase the bottom line of your practice. Two-thirds of patients report they would like to try telemedicine if their clinician would offer the service.
While these are a few examples of patient engagement strategies that any practice could adopt, some of the most innovative techniques are coming from some unique partnerships between retail brick and mortar locations and hospitals.
Case Study – Self-Service Kiosks Foster Patient Engagement in New York
A little over one year ago, New York Presbyterian and Walgreens teamed up to offer retail telehealth kiosks across the city. Both organizations cited their growing patient engagement strategies as the impetus for the initiative. The kiosks are located in a private room within each participating Walgreens site and they digitally connect the patient with a clinician from the health system.
Patients can be treated for non-life threatening illnesses and receive prescriptions and treatments over a video chat telemedicine application. Walgreen’s divisional vice president of digital healthcare, Gregg Orr, stated:
“We believe that telemedicine can play a critical role in connecting patients with providers. We can now help to bring awareness of services that are offered locally by trusted providers such as NewYork-Presbyterian. We are pleased that NewYork-Presbyterian will be the first local healthcare provider to collaborate with us on our evolving telehealth and digital strategy.”
This partnership between traditional retail pharmacy Walgreens and a healthcare system is just one example of how telemedicine can engage patients with clinical teams in new and more convenient ways. It’s one of the first initiatives of this type but is widely expected to continue and expand. While hospitals, employers, and insurance payers have offered telehealth options, major retailers are now partnering with healthcare providers to expand their care delivery.
Patient Engagement HIT reported on the effort and offered this opinion:
“Telehealth plays a significant part in supporting patient engagement strategies in healthcare organizations. By both offering more convenient care access options, telehealth technology is an important part of the patient’s relationship with healthcare.”
OrthoLive offers orthopedists the opportunity to engage their patients in new ways. Our ortho-specific telemedicine application makes surgical follow-ups more convenient by bringing the doctor to the patient in a telehealth visit. While hospitals and large practice networks have offered telemedicine to their patients, the OrthoLive subscription app is suitable for even the smallest practice. We can help you gain a competitive advantage while offering your patients new ways to engage in the business of health. Call us for a demo today.