Effective patient engagement assumes mutual dedication. Although patients do care about their health, they still need some encouragement to get fully involved in their well-being activities. And healthcare organizations are there to offer a helping hand by providing more health information as well as promoting awareness and responsible behavior.
No wonder that patient engagement has become part of the Meaningful Use program, motivating healthcare organizations to work on more open communication with care consumers in order to reduce readmissions and improve outcomes.
At ScienceSoft, we have created an engagement concept that multiplies three essential aspects of the patient-caregiver bond:
We call this equation a TIM formula. Applying the TIM, healthcare organizations are able to actually team up with patients, making the interaction less official and frightening. Because we have to admit it – dentists alone are pretty scary, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Recent trends point to patients using mobile devices to interact with caregivers – for example, to find the nearest hospital, access a patient portal or schedule an appointment. However, if you take a look at the Truven Health Analytics 2015 15 Top Health Systems websites, you’ll find out that only 8 of them (53%) are responsive.
And these are the 10 healthcare systems with Medium ($750 million – $1.5 billion) and Large (> $1.5 billion) operating budgets. Now, imagine the number of non-optimized resources among the smaller caregivers.
It stands to reason that healthcare is a technically progressive industry, with its own specifics and traditions. However, in respect to the hundreds of millions spent on complex medical devices and therapeutic equipment, it’s also reasonable to invest in usability. If we save lives, you might ask, why should we really bother about website optimization? The same reason – to encourage patients to actively care about their well-being.
To engage patients, a website should first of all provide access to clinical data. A highly secure personal account with lab results, a prescription refill feature, payment options, and other functionality elements comprise PCTK – an online patient-centered toolkit.
This toolkit is a step towards establishing a human connection during the treatment course. Healthcare organizations are aware that not only acute patients need empathy and simple respect. And there’s no better way to nourish care consumers virtually than to create a functional patient portal with important features. Which, by the way, also reduces the paperwork and the number of readmissions.
Thinking about the PCTK functionality, we have spotted three noteworthy groups of features:
- Promoting, setting up, and achieving goals
- Providing information on test results, medications, treatment tips and health education
- Introducing care team members
Why so serious? Life, health and well-being are matters sensitive and there’s no need to aggravate and wag finger at patients. It won’t boost anyone’s caution or mindfulness, but can have exactly the opposite effect. Patients might think that if everything is already that bad, then any action is useless. And giving up is the worst outcome the healthcare system can get.
For this reason, patient engagement uses motivation elements to help patients in adopting a healthy pattern of habits. Gamification proves to be the strongest of all.
SuperBetter, for instance, is a system of web and mobile applications aimed at helping people who face health and life challenges on their way to recovery. It uses a smart set of strong gamification techniques that are perfect for the goals of the healthcare industry:
- Social sharing
What makes a difference in every process is an attitude. If users set up goals, customize diet plans, and avoid unhealthy habits, they are able to change themselves and the whole environment around them significantly. Life naturally becomes brighter and easier, because now it is more of a game than a daily struggle.
TIM Web Engagement
In conclusion, empowering patients through a responsive website or a set of motivational features is not enough. The health industry’s credo is to make care the first concern at each stage on the patient’s way to well-being.
Thus, all the TIM (technology-information-motivation) elements should be in the picture to make the concept of patient engagement work. Useful functionality packed in a responsive website and customized patient portals help healthcare systems to create a strong presence effect.
By Mikhail Turalenka, PHP developer at ScienceSoft