Doctors live by the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, but most of them would say that they go much further than that. Do to no harm signifies a more inactive path to healthcare, however being actively involves implies much more work, and not just work on the part of the doctor. A much stronger movement being made in the healthcare industry now encompasses having the patient actively involved in their own care. This is being labeled as patient engagement, and healthcare professionals are working night and day to find and implement patient engagement services to help the population to be healthier, but also to bring healthcare costs down.
No matter how good the intentions may be of some doctors, there are always patients that will resist helping themselves. By no means does that denote they are lost causes and won’t come around to being actively engaged in their own health, but this group cannot be the standard by which action is dictated. There are a host of patients that are waiting for an invitation, but don’t know where to start or have never been given the tools to do so. And, up until engagement was quite limited due to the fact that healthcare organizations didn’t have much to do with patients outside of an office or emergency visit. This is no longer the case.
One of the most important patient engagement services being utilized is the patient electronic platform or patient medical portal. Depending on the capability of the medical portal, a patient is able to take care of many tasks that could only be done at an office, such as:
- Fill out patient medical forms
- Check in for an appointment early
- Set up non-emergency appointments
- Email or communicate questions or concerns
- Check results for tests or procedures
- Research reliable information on diseases and illnesses
- Input information into medical records like daily blood pressure or glucose levels
Medical professionals have found that when a patient is able to see what is going on, find information to questions they have and communicated on an as-needed basis, that patient is more likely to be healthy, to recover more quickly for an ailment and to be more proactive in preventing future health issues.
It goes much further than just a single patient, in fact patient engagement services can and should extend to patient care groups and caregivers. There is a large generation of people that don’t have access to computers or don’t have the patience to learn to navigate it or the internet. This doesn’t mean that they should be set aside. Many family members are ever so willing to be an advocate for an ailing relative, and this has been made simpler with healthcare organizations providing nurses and other professionals that can answer questions quickly and help set up appointments when necessary. The result has been that caring for someone isn’t just part of some large abstract machine, but is brought down to individual actions, answers and information.
Another important patient engagement service is that of a reminder or friendly tip received by phone, text or email. We all live in a fast-paced world and have ourselves booked up to the hilt with work, family, homework, workouts, vacations and about a dozen other things. Something out of the ordinary like a doctor’s appointment may just slip through the cracks. This can be frustrating for both the physician and patient because time was set aside for that individual, and it went to waste rather than being utilized. Also, for the patient it may be challenging if the next available appointment is days or even weeks out. Overall, having simple reminders come in can help alleviate wasted time, effort and ability to help when it may be most needed.
With all the talk and movement that healthcare has made towards technology, sometimes the best patient engagement services are the one-on-one conversations at a doctor’s office or facility. A stereotypical personality of a Millennial would have you believing that personal contact is not necessary. Not every patient is a Millennial, and not every patient wants to turn to a computer or automated response system to get their questions or concerns answered. Technology is just a tool, an important one, but it can’t replace the human touch and intuition. It will usually be a doctor or nurse sitting down with a patient to help explain things like the patient portal or breakdown the significance of test results, so never underestimate the personal service when working towards better patient engagement.
No matter the approach that a healthcare organization may have in implementing patient engagement services, everything must be done in balance, and work towards involving as many people as possible. The hope is to help everyone to achieve better health, live longer and live better. Much of that can be realized when patients understand more clearly what is going on, what is expected of them and have people around them that can help whenever it is needed. This happens when more tools are being used, and when patients are able to get information. Patient engagement is a personal thing, but one that can be strived for by both patient and professional.
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