The competency to engage patients in their care is a major component to a healthcare organization’s long-term success. Regardless of how you feel about Meaningful Use or the Affordable Care Act, it’s critical to understand the success of these new models is conditional on two important measurements: patient satisfaction and care outcomes. Research has shown that the more engaged a patient is in their care, the better outcomes they will achieve. So today, it’s no surprise that many healthcare employers have turned their focus onto promoting engagement to deliver better care.
While there are several ways to encourage patients to become better advocates of their own health, consider the following best practices to help you plan your healthcare organization’s patient engagement and satisfaction strategy.
1. Treat Patients with Respect
Patients value respect because they want providers to treat them like equals and engage with them personally. Dr. James Merlino, Chief Experience Officer and Associate Chief of Staff of the Cleveland Clinic health system, conducted an extensive study to see what their patients wanted and discovered respect was one of their top concerns. Merlino says this personal connection is important because patients tend to feel that when providers connect with them on a personal level, those providers will make fewer mistakes. “We were surprised to discover that on the scale of what’s most important to patients, wait times were the least important. Displays of concern and caring, however, were most important.”
2. Foster Ongoing Communication
Finding effective ways to communicate with patients can not only lead to positive outcomes, but also increase patient satisfaction. “The key is for the health professional to initiate the engagement, meet the patient where they are, and keep the conversation going during the regular practice visits, through focused care management support, and/or through check-ins from practice and staff,” says Charisse Williams, RN, Care Management Lead at Aledade. For example, ideally, patient engagement starts with an in-person discussion and continues through frequent communication, whether through phone calls, emails, texts and/or other electronic formats made available through online patient portals.
3. Personalize Care
Sometimes just changing how medical professionals interact with patients can offer the greatest impact on engagement. “One of the things we do to help with improving patient experience is to really coach our employees to engage with the patient, and make sure they’re connecting with them on a personal level,” says Maureen Harding, a RN at Barnabas Health System. Simply greeting patients with a warm smile and trying not to overwhelm them with too much information are techniques clinicians should consider. Harding says a seemingly small measure has made a large impact in how patients perceive their experience in the health system.
4. Increase Employee Engagement
A growing body of research reveals that employee engagement has a strong and direct impact on patient satisfaction scores. “The only way to make sure patients are satisfied is to make sure employees are satisfied,” says Joe Giansante, Vice President of HR at Ellis Medicine. A study in API Healthcare found that hospitals in the top 10 percent of employee engagement scored an average of 61 percentile points higher on the HCAHPS Overall Hospital Rating metric than hospitals in the bottom 10 percent of employee engagement. For example, successful strategies for driving employee satisfaction may include employing a formal recognition program or even providing development opportunities for your employees.
By applying the above practices to your patient care strategy, you will not only boost patient engagement, but will also drive more positive patient experiences and outcomes. What successful methods have you employed at your healthcare organization?