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Patient Engagement: A Key Element for Success in Value-Based Care

Opinion
Article

To support a value-based care model, healthcare organizations should focus on creating meaningful engagement throughout the patient's journey. This includes contacting patients at the right time through the right channel with relevant messages.

In today's healthcare landscape, the shift toward value-based care (VBC) is increasingly taking hold. This year, we’ll see many healthcare practices continue to face challenges with stagnant fee-for-service reimbursement rates and medical inflation.

To succeed in a VBC environment, practices must adopt patient engagement as a foundational capability. Better patient engagement not only helps keep patients healthy and from needing higher-cost care or hospitalization, but also builds loyalty, helps meet quality measures, and reduces risk. In this article, we explore why patient engagement is critical to VBC success and discuss steps to engage patients digitally for effective care management.

Why is patient engagement critical to VBC success?

Engaging patients in their care can lead to better health outcomes. When patients feel they have provider guidance, two-way communication, and the empowerment to self-serve when needed, they are more likely to follow their physician's advice, adhere to referrals, undergo necessary tests, and make positive lifestyle changes. By establishing a strong patient-physician relationship, healthcare providers can empower patients to take control of their health and make more informed decisions.

Patient engagement can also foster loyalty and continuity of care. By partnering with patients throughout their healthcare journey, practices can create a positive patient experience and a trusted relationship with their patients, increasing their propensity to follow through on recommended actions and tasks to improve their conditions. By offering accessible digital patient engagement tools and nurturing patient relationships, organizations can also retain patients and reduce the likelihood of them seeking care elsewhere.

Many VBC programs include patient satisfaction as a measurement. By engaging patients and addressing their care needs, organizations can enhance patient satisfaction scores and meet quality measures. Through comprehensive engagement efforts, including post-visit surveys and ongoing communication, providers can improve patient experience and ensure compliance with VBC contract measures.

Engaging patients proactively helps in keeping them healthy and avoiding high-cost care. By delivering more routine, low-cost care and maintaining regular contact, providers can identify and address health issues before they escalate. This can help organizations to reduce costs and minimize the need for expensive interventions. Engaging patients in their health management helps to prevent adverse events and promotes timely interventions, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes, quality measures, and VBC reimbursements.

Steps to engage patients digitally

To support a VBC model, healthcare organizations should focus on creating meaningful engagement throughout the patient's journey. This includes contacting patients at the right time through the right channel with relevant messages. For example, by leveraging automated wellness campaigns and reminders, practices can bridge care gaps and encourage patients to take proactive steps toward self-care, such as scheduling annual wellness visits and immunizations.

Consider the following steps to engage patients digitally in health management for success in VBC initiatives:

  • Digitally activate your patients: First obtain patients’ contact information and consent to connect with the practice through patient preferred channels, such as email and text messages, for various care management tasks, such as scheduling appointments, accessing information, and seeking support. Providing easy access to providers and keeping patients informed about their care helps them actively manage their health. Offering online tools, secure messaging, telehealth, and mobile access enables patients to conveniently engage with their healthcare providers.
  • Use the tools and be responsive: Deploy digital tools that simplify communication and care management for patients. Ensure the availability of features like easily accessible, secure personal health information, online scheduling, text messaging notifications, self-check-in, and online bill payment. If the patient uses these tools, support them sufficiently or they will end up frustrated. Further, collect appropriate patient data through these tools and use it effectively to streamline workflows, provide a better patient experience, and enhance the quality of care delivered. Continue evolving your capabilities and operations as new features become available.
  • Provide training to staff: It is essential to train staff on using digital tools efficiently and understanding the value and efficiencies they offer. When clinicians and staff are well-versed in utilizing these tools, they can guide patients effectively and integrate digital engagement seamlessly into the care process. Staff members should be able to educate patients on the benefits of using online tools and assist them in navigating and managing their care.
  • Clinicians and staff must guide the patient: Promote digital engagement as an integral part of patient encounters. Encourage clinicians and staff to discuss digital tools during consultations, at the front desk, through messages, and other touchpoints. Offer in-person opportunities to encourage and train patients to use self-scheduling, self-check-in, online payments, the portal, and the patient app to create a more frictionless experience for themselves. By making digital engagement a consistent part of the patient experience, healthcare organizations can reinforce the importance of these tools and motivate patients to utilize them for their benefit.

Patient engagement is crucial for healthcare organizations to succeed in value-based care. By embracing digital tools and fostering a culture of patient engagement, providers can improve health outcomes and meet quality measures. Organizations must proactively engage patients throughout their healthcare journey and guide them in utilizing online tools for effective care management. By prioritizing patient engagement, healthcare organizations can navigate the challenges of VBC and deliver better care experiences while reducing costs, building patient loyalty, and improving care quality.

Curtis Sherbo is the vice president of product management, patient experience at athenahealth, a leading provider of network-enabled software and services for medical groups and health systems nationwide.

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