Think back to the last time you had an outstanding customer experience. Maybe you received the wrong item you’d ordered online, called customer service, and had the correct item delivered to your doorstep the next morning. Maybe your flight got delayed by several hours and you received a voucher for a free flight the next time you booked with that airline.
In today’s customer-centric marketplace, these types of stories are not uncommon. With the majority of companies – a whopping 89% – already competing mainly on the basis of the customer experience, it is no longer optional to provide customers with exceptional service.
Now think back to your last experience as a patient. Chances are you were made to wait to see your doctor and, when you finally got into the exam room, you had to repeat all of the information you’d already given about your illness or injury over the phone.
It’s no secret that health systems have historically failed to live up to patient expectations, with patient-centric approaches to care falling by the wayside as hospitals have instead focused on how to reduce costs and improve their bottom line.
However, with the shift from volume- to value-based care, healthcare organizations are having to shift their priorities in order to remain competitive in the marketplace. Becker’s Hospital Review statistics, in fact, show that 70% of hospitals surveyed view “patient experience and satisfaction” as their main priority over the next few years.
Let’s take a look at the patient engagement journey and explore why it’s so critical for driving patient satisfaction throughout the entire continuum of care:
What Is the Patient Engagement Journey?
Everyone uses the term “patient engagement” but that doesn’t mean that everyone uses the term in the same way. While patient engagement is about engaging the patient during a single encounter, engagement shouldn’t be limited to that one encounter alone.
Instead, health systems should be thinking about the ways in which they can drive engagement throughout the entire patient journey. This means everything from the early education and awareness stage (for example, going online and searching for information on symptoms) to physician interaction to appointment follow-ups and reminders for continued care.
In today’s healthcare landscape, consumers have more options, choices, and responsibilities when it comes to managing their own care. This ecosystem shift means that the patient journey is not a linear one, but rather a multi-stage journey with many different channels and touchpoints along the way (much like a tree with many different branches).
The phases of the patient engagement journey include the following:
- Awareness: Self-assessment of conditions and symptoms, leading to online research and education, posing questions on social media, etc.
- Help: Initial contact with health system via call center, email, mobile, etc. (i.e., Who do I contact?, Where can I find it?, How can I ask a proper question?)
- Care: Assessment of health condition in medical facility (physician’s office, hospital, etc.)
- Treatment: On-site and follow-up care (medications, physical therapy, etc.)
- Behavioral/Lifestyle Change: Changes to reduce readmissions and promote proactive health
- Ongoing Care/Proactive Health: Ongoing care management between patient visits, fostering engagement between the patient & physician and enabling the patient to better manage his/her own care
It’s important to note that patient engagement is not a static journey, but one that should continue to evolve over the lifetime of a patient. For many health systems, this represents a very different construct for thinking about patient treatment – in other words, engagement does not begin and end with a single encounter.
Why Do Health Systems Need to Prioritize the Patient Engagement Journey and How Can They Do So?
With today’s more informed consumer comes a significant challenge for healthcare organizations: How do they effectively reach and engage patients on the channels they prefer to use (i.e., social media, mobile, email, phone, direct mail, etc.)?
The key is to provide a personalized journey, specific to each individual patient. Active patient engagement involves engaging consumers based on specific information (demographic, psychographic, social, behavioral, etc.), all of which can be managed with a healthcare CRM solution.
Armed with this information, healthcare organizations can build, launch, and manage multi-channel campaigns to target specific demographics, consumers at risk, consumers with specific conditions, etc. to effectively engage patients in their own care.
What’s more, health systems need to understand at what stage patients are in the “engagement tree” (i.e., awareness, treatment, etc.) in order to increase the likelihood of that person getting and staying engaged. This involves measuring patient interaction points with health analytics, helping to anticipate patient needs, what issues they might have with their current care, and how to craft messaging so it’s relevant to that specific person.
With consumers becoming more discerning than ever before, fostering patient engagement isn’t just a best practice – it’s critical. Hospitals need to do more than engage patients during a single encounter, however; they need to find ways to engage patients throughout the entire continuum of care, helping them to stay engaged.
The end result is, of course, patients who more proactively manage their own care and health systems that empower them to do so.