8 Best Strategies To Improve Patient Engagement In Primary Care
Patient engagement has emerged as an essential element of effective care. Health care leaders around the country have begun to recognize that engaging patients through collaborative, personalized care is key to reducing costs and improving outcomes.
What does it take to increase patient engagement? Many of the ideas outlined below are on the cutting edge of innovation, while others are already gaining widespread adoption as standard practice. In either case, we hope you will consider implementing these strategies in your practice if you have not done so already.
1. Pre-visit planning
Clinicians have limited time with each patient and it should be focused on the patient, not on paperwork. By having other team members do some prep work in advance of the appointment, the practice can optimize the time clinicians spend with patients and the providers can fully focus their attention on the patient’s needs.
It’s a great way to make face-to-face interactions more efficient, be respectful of the patient’s time, and help build the relationship between the provider and the patient.
At first glance, it seems counter-intuitive to spend time on a patient in advance of his or her visit. But this is time well spent. Practices report that, while the process requires entirely new workflow patterns for many staff members, they also report that it results in significant rewards for providers and patients alike.
There are many ways to implement pre-visit planning. Some practices reach out to patients 1-2 weeks before the scheduled appointment to make sure the team is up-to-date on critical issues and logistics, and then has time to follow-up on any specialty appointments the patient has had since their last visit.
In other practices, the team simply reviews patient files a day or two in advance of the primary care appointment to identify and urgent issues and make sure everything is ready for the appointment.
2. Involving patients and families in the practice
It has often been said that patients are the greatest untapped resource in healthcare. Patients are in the best position to give constructive feedback to a practice. By giving patients and families a platform, in the form of a patient advisory group or Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), the practice can create productive partnerships with its “customers” and use their guidance to continually improve service and care.
3. Motivational interviewing
Primary care practices are “in the business” of behavior change – helping patients identify goals and overcome their ambivalence to achieving them. MI is a focused and goal-directed approach, so it is ideally suited for engaging patients in primary care. By bringing MI into primary care, providers can more effectively engage the intrinsic motivation within the client to change his or her unhealthy behavior.
The techniques can be transformative in the primary care setting and are relatively easy to learn and spread throughout the practice. Generally speaking, a practice will designate an internal MI expert who becomes trained in the techniques and then trains others in the practice.
The practice establishes a process for training new staff members and periodically offers a refresher course for those already trained.
4. Care coordination
In recent years, pressures have mounted on primary care providers to deliver high-quality care in less time to an ever-growing panel of patients. As one strategy to end this unsustainable cycle, many primary care practices have sought to spread the primary care provider’s traditional work load among a team of providers, each of whom is encouraged and empowered to “work to the top of their license.”
Distributing the workload reduces the burden on the PCP and elevates other members of the team. In this way, practices can get today’s work done today and staff and providers are able to achieve better work-life balance.
5. Community outreach
In healthcare, this is perhaps most true with chronically ill patients, especially in under-served populations and in rural settings. Many practices have discovered the best way to engage patients and motivate them to be active in their own care is through dedicated resources engaging with patients in the community. These are workers whose job description is “whatever it takes.”
6. Integrated behavioral health services
Many medical conditions are greatly affected by patients’ behavioral choices and mental health issues and primary care teams must often address common mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. In addition, behavioral and lifestyle issues, such as smoking or lack of exercise and poor sleep, affect many aspects of health.
By bringing medical and behavioral health services together within primary care and practicing “warm hand-offs,” the clinical team is able to ensure appropriate engagement on both the mental and general health needs of the patient – and integrate the two.
7. Shared decision-making
Patients do not always have adequate input into the decisions that clinicians make about their health and their lives. In particular, they often do not know enough about their treatment options – especially the underlying evidence base – to make informed decisions. Even when providers are supportive of patient involvement in decision-making, they may not have the tools or capability to make it happen.
Shared decision-making is a model of patient-centered care that enables and encourages people to play a role in the medical decisions that affect their health. It assumes that consumers armed with good information can and will participate in the medical decision-making process and that clinicians will respect patients’ goals and preferences and use them to guide recommendations and treatments.
Patients with chronic conditions are frequently in the best position to manage their own care. Effective practices provide the support and encouragement to help people with chronic conditions and their families understand their central role in managing their illness, make informed decisions about care, and engage in healthy behaviors.
Enabling patients to make good choices and sustain healthy behaviors requires a collaborative and trusting relationship between healthcare providers and patients and their families. This partnership supports patients in building the skills and confidence they need to lead active and fulfilling lives.
How Vozo helps you?
Creating a better patient portal and giving patients the ability to manage their health increases patient engagement. Schedule a free demo to know how the Vozo patient portal helps your practice.