Tools to increase patient engagement in the healthcare industry have taken practices by storm in recent years. The onset of patient portals and wearable technology have given patients the motivation they needed to stay in charge of their health. Improvement in health outcomes and patient accountability have been a result of the use of these tools. Because of this, organizations often emphasize digital patient education as a key means of benefit to practices all over the country. But how does this increase in patient engagement affect providers? Does increased patient engagement mean patients will need you less?
Some telehealth technology has given much-needed convenience for patients who seek medical advice/attention. Patients can now access their doctors from their own homes. This alone increases patient engagement substantially, allowing doctors and patients to communicate more easily. This wider and more accessible line of communication encourages patients to seek help when they need it without having to visit the doctor. Paired with patient portals, EHR technology has allowed doctors to provide patients access to their health records with ease. With only a few clicks, patients can pull up lab results, schedule an appointment, view their health history, and everything else they need to stay on top of their health. Because of this easy access, patients are more aware. The process itself boosts patient engagement.
While all of this seems great, is it ultimately taking your patients away from you? The increases in patient engagement cause patients to take charge of their health, but does it go too far? While this effort is driven by the desire to increase doctor-patient communication, it might be having a negative impact on your practice’s bottom line. Patients might feel like they don’t need to go to the doctor as often if they can send them a quick message via patient portals. Wearable technology like the Fitbit is helping patients track their exercise and progress. The result of all this convenience could decrease patient engagement if they feel they have their health under control.
While patient engagement feeds into health outcomes, the technology that is driving its growth is causing patients to stay out of your office. This bitter-sweet concept comes with many benefits for patients, but is the impact of patients avoiding your office a hardship on your practice?
Overall, research shows that the use of e-visits and telehealth technology not only improves outcomes, it also increases the number of times the patient sees their doctor each year. While they may have avoided taking care of themselves properly in the past, the expanded access that new technology gives has made it easier for them to see the doctor – and that is driving increased patient engagement. In the end, providers shouldn’t be worried that their patients will need them less, but rather be prepared for seeing more patients in less time thanks to the new tools that patients and doctors are communicating through.