It’s not just providers who make a difference in healthcare. As increasingly more patients are coming to realize, they too have a critical role to play when it comes to wellness, recovery, and quality of life.
In this article, we explore some best strategies for cultivating patient health engagement, including great activities you can implement to improve your clients’ healthcare experience.
Why Is Patient Engagement Important? 5 Benefits
Patient engagement describes the drive to maximize patient outcomes or care experiences by informing, involving, and supporting clients in their own healthcare.
From a patient perspective, it covers:
The desire and capability to actively choose to participate in care in a way uniquely appropriate to the individual in cooperation with a healthcare provider or institution.
It represents a shift away from traditionally ‘one-sided’ approaches to healthcare, in which patients were seen as playing a mostly passive role in their treatments, and toward more collaborative approaches that involve them as co-collaborators in taking care of their health.
- Higher patient enrolment rates
- Improved retention at clinics and practices
- Less taxed healthcare systems, and importantly,
- Enhanced healthcare outcomes for patients, as well as greater population health more widely.
With these benefits in mind, patient engagement strategies describe the practical ways in which healthcare professionals today are involving, supporting, and empowering those they work with – for a better healthcare experience and ultimately, better outcomes.
So what does a successful patient engagement strategy lead to – or how does patient engagement look in practice?
4 Examples of Excellent Patient Engagement
In an in-depth study of patient engagement, researchers Higgins and colleagues identified four defining attributes of patient engagement: Personalization, Access, Commitment, and Therapeutic Alliance.
We can see how these look with some patient engagement examples – and we’ve paired these with some actionable strategies in the section below.
- Personalization refers to ensuring that interventions are as aligned closely as possible to a patient’s unique wishes and circumstances of the patient. In practice, this covers attempts to collaborate on decision-making, or customizing resources, information, and content to a patient’s particular needs and interests.
- Access describes a patient’s ability to acquire information, help, and tools for consistent, high-quality care. Examples might include personalized activities, learning material, or interventions that have been adapted to suit their location or cultural background.
- Commitment covers the emotional and cognitive aspects of empowering a patient to make use of available health resources available. It can include the provision of ongoing support, prompts to change behavior, or equipping them with self-management strategies.
- Therapeutic alliance describes a supportive, communicative, and collaborative patient-practitioner relationship – one in which client engagement in therapy is high because of a genuine rapport or connection between the patient and their professional. A co-creative relationship between a therapist and their client would be a good example.
In the next section, you’ll see how some of these strategies look in practice.
How To Increase Patient Engagement: 10+ Strategies
In blended care, the patient engagement indicators we’ve just described can be easily implemented as cost-effective strategies with patient engagement tools like apps, software, and course content.
Here’s a closer look at how that works.
Personalization might involve disseminating informative resources or interventions to a single patient or entire community, depending on the size of your intended audience. The goal here is to improve patient receptivity to the activity, exercise, or psychoeducation by tailoring it to their interests, capabilities, or context and enhance the likelihood of their participation.
Here, we’ve shown a good example of how this can be achieved using personalized psychoeducational resources:
Our patients in this example might be in colder regions, and for summer months this could be modified using patient engagement tools into an awareness-building campaign about safe exercise in the heat.
Personalization may also involve:
- Using a client’s preferred multimedia to make engaging activities more engaging (e.g. video, mp3, or PDF)
- Collecting insights on their opinions and insights to tailor interventions, or
- Encouraging shared decision-making during treatment planning.
If you want your clients to stick with your programs and achieve better results, we’ve created a full guide on how to engage clients in therapy.
The overarching goal of strategies that improve patient access is to help them overcome common obstacles to receiving treatment – or continuing with it. These can be as simple as making information more easily available by providing it digitally or sending notifications outside of therapy sessions to complete exercises. Access can also cover the provision of a private, secure patient portal, which makes it simpler for clients to get involved by booking appointments and sending messages.
Patient engagement strategies focused on access might also involve providing homework between sessions, as shown:
Online homework is a great way for practitioners to help patients progress with their treatment when they are geographically far away, in different time zones, or physically unable to travel to a surgery. They can easily be created and shared through a therapy app.
Building patient commitment to treatment, positive change, and wellbeing often involves health coaching and other interventions focused on empowerment.
Some examples include:
- Emphasizing patient ownership
- Encouraging patients to seek out knowledge autonomously
- Motivational interviewing, and
- Fostering engagement in self-management.
Here, the aim is to encourage patients to fully accept their role as active agents in their own healthcare.
Some great ways to build a stronger therapeutic alliance include:
- Inviting dialogue to encourage bi-directional feedback
- Helping patients feel welcome and supported within the practice, and once again
- Encouraging shared decision-making in therapy.
The following activities, measures, assessments, and questionnaires can all play a valuable role in an integrated patient engagement strategy.
Patient Engagement Toolkit: 6 Activities, Measurements & Assessments
Today’s patient engagement software solutions often come equipped with a diversity of different exercises, interventions, and questionnaires that can be customized to suit your practice and clients.
And of course, there is a multitude of validated measures in the literature that are freely available for professional use.
3 Ways to Measure Engagement
Some great examples include measurements designed to assess engagement, which can yield insights into the efficacy of a campaign – or even where to start. Here are a few to get you started.
- The Patient Health Engagement Scale (PHE Scale), developed by Graffinga and colleagues is a self-report measure that can be used to gauge Patient Activation on a 7-point scale. Your own measures based on this framework can easily be distributed online as a Likert-style questionnaire.
- The proprietary Altarum Consumer Engagement (ACE) Measure™ is another validated scale used to screen for patient activities that are related to patient engagement, as well as health consumerism.
- Quenza’s Outcome Rating Scale is a free Expansion within the software that measures clients’ feelings about their lives post-therapy, which can be used to capture their feelings about a treatment or wellness journey.
3 Engagement-Building Activities
Together with personalized activities and exercises, like these, measures can be combined into highly scalable patient engagement strategies.
- The Brief Needs Check-In, another Quenza Expansion, encourages patients to ‘check-in’ with their needs throughout the day, and subsequently, take action to meet them. This can be an effective way to build commitment while giving practitioners insights that can be used for personalization strategies.
- The Solution-Focused Guided Imagery Activity engages patients in strategizing and knowledge search by triggering them to explore their strengths and the actions necessary to solve challenges. This 7-part exercise can be used to build commitment and works well as a digital intervention.
- The Ottowa Patient Decision Aids are joint decision-making programs currently used by Ontario professionals that can be used as the basis for customized patient involvement interventions. These ready patients for decision-making by enhancing their knowledge about common treatment outcomes and their personal values for a more personalized healthcare experience.
Using Technology Platforms For Engagement
As most experienced blended care practitioners will know, patient engagement technology covers a whole market full of digital systems that can be used for patient communication, educational resource provision, and patient-provider relationship management.
These can describe fully integrated software suites, which carry out a range of CRM and patient engagement functions, to specialized tools that automate or manage one aspect of your patient engagement strategies.
If you’re keen to enhance the efficacy of your engagement strategy with software, apps, or online platforms, our Patient Engagement in Healthcare: 5 Apps & Technology Tools article is a brilliant place to start.
Ultimately, patient engagement strategies are designed to reinvent, or revolutionize the patient-provider relationship – and context – so that those we help can enjoy improved health and wellbeing.
Whether you want to launch a society-wide outreach program or simply provide more personalized treatments, this article should be full of useful tips that are a great place to start. What will your first steps be?
We hope you enjoyed these insights. To start implementing your own patient engagement strategies, don’t forget to start your 1-month trial of Quenza’s online patient engagement tools.
Our easy-to-use online tools will give you everything you need to design professional outreach materials, interventions, homework, and more, so that you can improve your patients’ health outcomes with more engaging therapy.
- ^ Higgins, T., Larson, E., & Schnall, R. (2017). Unraveling the meaning of patient engagement: a concept analysis. Patient Education and Counseling, 100(1), 30.
- ^ Edwards, V., Wyatt, K., Logan, S., & Britten, N. (2011). Consulting parents about the design of a randomized controlled trial of osteopathy for children with cerebral palsy. Health Expectations, 14(4), 429.
- ^ Carman, K. L., & Workman, T. A. (2017). Engaging patients and consumers in research evidence: applying the conceptual model of patient and family engagement. Patient Education and Counseling, 100(1), 25.
- ^ Barello, S., Graffigna, G., Savarese, M., and Bosio, A. C. (2014). Engaging patients in health management: towards a preliminary theoretical conceptualization. Psicologia Della Salute, 3, 11.
- ^ Graffigna, G., Barello, S., Bonanomi, A., & Lozza, E. (2015). Measuring patient engagement: development and psychometric properties of the Patient Health Engagement (PHE) scale. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 274.
- ^ Duke, C. C., Lynch, W. D., Smith, B., & Winstanley, J. (2015). Validity of a new patient engagement measure: the Altarum Consumer Engagement (ACE) Measure™. The Patient-Patient-Centered Outcomes Research, 8(6), 559.
- ^ O'connor, A. M., Drake, E. R., Fiset, V., Graham, I. D., Laupacis, A., & Tugwell, P. (1999). The Ottawa patient decision aids. Effective Clinical Practice: ECP, 2(4), 163.