Telemedicine as a “New” Tool for Patient Engagement?Remember the “good old days,” when hospitals didn’t have marketing teams and we thought that remodeling the ER would magically attract retain new patients? Those were the days when “heads in beds” were the goal — well before the idea of population health and readmission penalties underscored the value of proactive care.

It’s true that the old days of “if you build it, they will come” are long gone. The newest buzzwords in healthcare are patient engagement, as hospitals and medical practices seek better coordination of care, higher patient satisfaction scores, and ultimately, thicker margins.

This article will look at the concept of patient engagement in healthcare and discuss how telemedicine technology can help your medical practice reach a broader audience in a more cost-effective model for you – while providing a more satisfying and engaging experience for your patients.

The Idea of Patient Engagement in a Medical Setting

Healthcare providers now know what the rest of the business community has been aware of for years; the competition for clients is fierce. Over the past decade, the power of the Internet has allowed our patients to self-diagnose their own treatments, shop for doctor rating scores, and use a smartphone app to find the nearest minute clinic instead of waiting to get on your appointment calendar.

Today, consumerism is the “new black” in healthcare. But that’s not the only shift in our business paradigm. The switch from volume to value is forcing providers to move from reactive to proactive treatment models. Both of these trends have given rise to the idea of customer engagement in healthcare.

But what is customer engagement in the medical field? Most clinicians would define it as loyalty to their own brand, be it a solo primary care practice that serves patients for decades, or a healthcare system that serves families across a network.

Or, they define it as patient compliance; such as when the diabetic patient successfully practices better eating habits or the elderly patient takes their medications on time and at the right dosage.

But Healthcare Informatics suggests that patient engagement is a broader concept centering on the patient and healthcare provider interacting as part of a community of preventative care. In this model, healthcare practitioners and their patients broaden their partnerships in a coordinated effort to improve health and healthcare delivery.

It is this concept that leads us directly to the use of telemedicine technology as one of the most effective patient engagement tools available today.

Telemedicine and Patient Engagement

“With respect to engagement, I think the task for us as a healthcare system is really to think about what barriers exist for patients to get the type of care they need and how to remove those barriers.”
Reena Pande, MD, CMO, Abilto
“How Telemedicine Brings New Meaning to Patient Engagement”
Patient Engagement HIT

Telemedicine applications can offer doctors and patients new ways to engage in proactive treatment models. Patient Engagement HIT spells out the benefits of this groundbreaking technology:

Telemedicine introduces new patients to preventative and primary care,
and allows them to interact with physicians in ways that
they weren’t able to before.

The telemedicine virtual visit is a technology-fueled “house call” that reaches patients wherever they are with convenient and expanded access. It reduces friction in healthcare workflows by eliminating frustrating bottlenecks for patients. Instead of waiting weeks to get an appointment, traveling for miles to your practice, and then waiting for a half hour (or longer) to see a clinician, telemedicine cuts both the time and money spent on the in-person visit. This positive outcome applies to the medical practice or hospital, but also to the patient.

Thus, telemedicine offers new ways to engage patients. But it is in the expansion of treatment to the clinically underserved regions of our country that truly illustrates the vision of patient engagement found in the virtual visit.

Engaging the Rural Patient and Improving National Care Metrics

Let’s face it – Americans have an increasing number of chronic diseases and healthcare costs are rising exponentially. However, nationally, some of the worst patient metrics are found in rural areas. As provider shortages worsen for both primary and specialty care, it’s clear that these outcomes will likely worsen in rural communities.

American living in rural communities have lower incomes, more uninsured residents, and higher mortality rates. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that many travel hundreds of miles for treatment. How can the concept of patient engagement be applied to these communities, where there’s no clinic for miles to even extend the possibility of care?

Telemedicine holds real promise for expanding our reach into these communities in a strategy to engage these populations proactively in their own health. Patient Engagement HIT says:

The most immediate benefit of telemedicine is the new population of patients who are able to receive care. Before telemedicine, patients living in rural areas with limited access to healthcare had to travel hours to see a physician, and would often go without primary or preventative care.

Telemedicine redefines patient engagement in underserved communities, extending primary and specialty care, behavioral health, addiction counseling, and education to communities that most desperately need it. While providing treatment to the underserved may seem like the crudest form of patient engagement strategy, it goes to the heart of the idea – which is dismantling barriers to healthcare and healthy living.

Conclusion: Telemedicine as an Engagement Tool for Your Practice

Expanding healthcare while cutting costs is not an oxymoron within the telemedicine industry. Telemedicine is the most effective way to expand our reach by engaging consumers in new ways and with technologies that they are already familiar with.

As healthcare providers, we are faced with a number of challenges that extend beyond declining reimbursement and increasing regulation. The challenge today is centered on how to engage our “customers” in their own journey toward health. Using the virtual visit to proactively think outside traditional healthcare delivery models will help your team re-engage patients while improving the bottom line.

Talk with the OrthoLive team today about telemedicine and how it could help your practice – and your patients.

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