Getting on the Same Page About What Patient Engagement Really Means

This is the first post in a series of four that discuss why hospitals and health systems must look beyond the Electronic Health Record (EHR) in order to cultivate richer patient engagement and boost patient loyalty, and how a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, when integrated with your EHR system, can help you interact and engage with your patients in more meaningful ways.

Read the second post to learn why health systems need more than just an EHR to successfully engage their patients. The third post discusses how a CRM system can bridge the patient engagement gap, and the fourth post shares how a CRM, when integrated with your EHR system, can help you interact and engage with your patients in more meaningful ways.

Patient CareChanging healthcare market forces, such as value-based care models, consolidation, and payer mix erosion, have propagated declining margins and fueled hyper-competition among hospitals and health systems. In this new world, determining effective patient engagement strategies has become paramount for healthcare organizations as they strive to acquire, retain, and re-activate patients, and, ultimately, drive revenue. Now, more than ever, it is critical that hospitals and health systems create and maintain positive, lasting relationships with their patients, both current and prospective, working to attract them into their network and keep them there.

Many healthcare executives initially looked to their Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and patient portals, mandated by the Affordable Care Act, to help them engage patients, but are now realizing that these technologies are not the complete solution. But, if they’re not, then what is? Enter Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, relationship-based technologies designed to deepen patient relationships across the care continuum and enhance patient loyalty.


“Patient Engagement” Defined

An online search of the term patient engagement yields over 30 million different results, and, while it would be a daunting task to try to sift through these findings, we can glean some common themes by taking a look at a few of the more well-known industry definitions.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Nursing Alliance for Quality Care, for example, patient engagement is the “involvement in their own care by individuals (and others they designate to engage on their behalf), with the goal that they make competent, well-informed decisions about their health and health care and take action to support those decisions.”

Angela Coulter’s popular definition proffers that patient engagement centers around the relationship between patients and healthcare organizations “who work together to promote and support active patient and public involvement in health and healthcare and to strengthen their influences on healthcare decisions, at both the individual and collective levels.”

Similarly, the Center for Advancing Health defines patient engagement as “actions individuals must take to obtain the greatest benefit from the health care services available to them.”

While each varies slightly, these definitions all possess similar foci:

  • A clinical slant, underscoring the interactions patients have with their clinical care providers about any healthcare decisions they may face.
  • Emphasis around actions taken at the point of care, or about a certain procedure or service.
  • The duty healthcare organizations have to inform and empower patients to make choices about their care confidently.

While educating and advising patients in their specific clinical healthcare decisions about services and/or procedures is an integral component of engagement, it’s not the only component, which makes most industry definitions of patient engagement incomplete.

What these definitions fail to capture is that patient engagement always goes beyond a single clinical decision and the four walls of a hospital or health system. Engagement is not just based on decisions, encounters, or transactions (e.g., a person engaging with a health system only when they are sick or need treatment). Engaging patients is about forming relationships, and it requires a knowledge of patients as individuals, and an understanding of their unique habits, wants, and needs — both clinical and non-clinical — throughout their care continuum, from pre-care, at the point of care, to post-care. It requires a knowledge of when to reach out to and engage specific patients, and the best way in which to do so. What keeps patients interested and proactively engaged in their healthcare is the relationship they have with their healthcare provider.

True engagement is about creating trust between a patient and his or her healthcare system that nurtures a long-standing, high-value relationship that lasts over the course of a patient’s lifetime and leads to sustainable business growth for the healthcare organization.




Evariant provides a leading healthcare CRM solution suite designed to help health systems transform the healthcare experience for their consumers, patients, and physicians. Built on the Salesforce Platform, our solutions foster richer consumer/patient engagement and tighter physician alignment. Powered by cutting-edge data and analytics, Evariant enables health systems to effectively communicate care options that increase revenue and market share, while optimizing network utilization. Many of the top health systems have selected Evariant to thrive in today’s hyper-competitive and rapidly changing environment.