Carol A. Wilcox
PREFERRED Therapy Providers, Inc.
Ask ten healthcare providers what they think patient engagement is and you’ll get ten different answers. Google the term, Patient Engagement and you’ll find a plethora of articles, opinions and definitions. Attend a healthcare conference and you’ll find vendors offering patient engagement solutions that range from patient portals to remote patient monitoring devices. Confusing? You bet! If you’re feeling challenged by what patient engagement is, this article will help drill down the essence of the term and help guide you to a common sense approach that you can incorporate right now in your own clinic.
According to this resource, patient engagement is defined as an ideal healthcare situation where people are well-informed about, and motivated to be involved in, their own medical care. Although often considered to be one in the same, the terms, patient engagement and patient experience are linked but do not mean the same thing. An engaged patient is someone who takes an active role in their health. They ask questions, do their own research and will often seek out alternative resources to better manage their healthcare and costs. An unengaged patient on the other hand, simply listens to their provider, asks little to no questions and does whatever their provider has recommended. A patient who is engaged in their healthcare tends to be healthier and have better outcomes whereas an unengaged patient tends to incur higher healthcare costs and may receive care that is not necessary. In your own practice, you most likely see both types of patients daily.
LOST REVENUE WITH PATIENT CHURN
Patients who are not engaged can have a serious affect your bottom line. According to this resource, approximately 70% of patients drop out of physical therapy before the recommended number of sessions. If you track your clinic’s churn rate calculating the number of sessions a patient actually attended versus the number of sessions recommended, you may find that you’re losing thousands of dollars every month due to churn.
It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone has the same opportunity to become a fully engaged patient. Many factors can come into play including income, social environments, comfort level with technology, and education. Arguably, it would seem likely that engaged patients would be more inclined to complete their rehab care than to drop off after two or three visits. So while it may not be realistic to assume that all patients will become completely engaged patients, there are still a few common sense approaches and tools you can use to ensure that the majority of your patients are engaged in their health and with your practice.
THE COMMON SENSE APPROACH
- Make patients feel welcome – Train your clinicians and staff to make patients feel welcome and comfortable from the moment they step into your clinic. Not only will this help to ease any anxiety, it will also help build loyalty to you and your clinic. Be sure the reception area is always clean and pleasant, and don’t keep a patient waiting for their scheduled appointment.
- Be approachable – Listen to the concerns of your patient. Demonstrate that you care about how they’re feeling.
- Encourage questions – Give your patients ample opportunity to think of and ask questions. Never make a patient feel that their questions or concerns aren’t important.
- Provide additional information – Direct patients to blogs or articles on your website; printed hand-outs, or other online resources that may help educate the benefits of physical therapy.
- Manage patient churn – If you identify a patient who appears uncommitted to their treatment, pay closer attention and try to determine why they’re not responsive. Perhaps they need more encouragement or need a boost of self confidence. Try to get to the root cause of their disinterest before they drop out of treatment completely.
- Reach out – Send a newsletter by email to your current and past patients. Include health tips or news about your clinic. The key to patient engagement is to keep your clinic name at the top of mind of your customers.
- Utilize technology – Incorporate patient engagement technology tools that compliment your practice such as appointment reminders and patient surveys. Make sure your website is current and informative. Encourage and monitor online reviews.
Although there are many more techniques and tools you can utilize, implementing a common sense approach to patient engagement is a great start to keeping and attracting more patients for your business.
About the Author:
Carol A. Wilcox is the staff writer and head of marketing communications at PREFERRED Therapy Providers, Inc. You can reach Carol here.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.