Engaging and empowering patients to drive patient experience

It is widely believed that patients are key to any improvements in patient experience within the healthcare environment, as well as key to care quality and efficiency too. Nothing can be improved without the initial knowledge of where the healthcare organizations are going wrong. Patients are the best source of information on what should improve; we need to ask our “customer” – it’s marketing 101.

The challenge with getting patients to direct and therefore improve patient experience in a hospital is getting them to engage in the system and explain where the roadblocks are in the first place. For this to occur, patient engagement strategies and techniques need to be put into place.

Proven patient engagement techniques:

One of the longest preferred methods of patient engagement is that of patient experience questionnaires, which can then be further supplemented by separate data that is gathered from either patient complaints or other concerns which have been reported. However, this patient engagement technique is often now replaced with one-to-one interactions with patients to gather feedback either in person or by phone.

VP, Saskatoon Health Region explains how it works for them, “We’re in a really good place, right now we have over 140 client-family advisors, resident advisors and we have 14 councils that have patients and families and clinicians together. They’re very much working councils, they don’t just sit and talk they’re doing actual projects and work. We have them everywhere from ICU council to home care we’ve just started, and we’ve just started an aboriginal people’s council because sometimes the way we structure things does not meet our immigrant or our diversity of our population and we’re seeing some great, exciting work coming out.”

New patient engagement and empowerment strategies:

Technology is playing a huge part in the development of new patient engagement strategies with bedside technologies providing education and empowerment. Shirley Fenton, Director at NIHI explains her latest project, “NIHI participated in several Canada Health Infoway Innovation projects on the development of web portals for people to help manage their care, such as chronic disease management. One of the first things we tried to get implemented in these portals were mechanisms that would engage patients. Not only patients who could and would interact with the system easily, but also those who were not able, or not inclined because of depression or other issues.”

Another recent patient engagement technique is based on social media. The use of smart phones and tablets is on the rise, so the idea of having medical apps or using text messages to communicate with patients is becoming a reality in some healthcare organizations. Increasingly, both handheld devices and kiosks are making appearances in healthcare institutes.

Critical elements of effective patient engagement:

  • Providing adequate education and information is the first step towards engaging a patient; whether healthcare organizations choose to do this through technology or a more personal route.
  • Involving your patient in their treatment is a logical next step, now that they have a deeper understanding of their condition and treatment; they are more likely to want to be involved in creating a good outcome.
  • Consulting the patient is essential to achieving lasting patient engagement, asking them what they think about their care and how it could be improved is critical.
  • Choice is the final key component as having choices to make in relation to their care will empower your patients and give them a feeling of control over their health outcomes.

The importance of action and closing the feedback loop:

Other vital elements of effective patient engagement consist of making sure that recommendations are implemented within the patient environment and also making sure improvements are designed to reach every single patient. It is very important that the most vulnerable are included.

It is essential that we not only engage patients but act on their feedback. Farah Schwartz, Manager of Patient and Family Education at Toronto Rehab, University Health Network explains, “You have to be ready and able to engage people, if you bring  people to the table and you don’t do what you’re saying you’re going to do, that’s actually a harmful thing, to engage people in that process and not act on it.”

Check out the Patient Experience Forum where we will be gathering to meet and learn from those organisations successfully driving patient experience strategies. Join us and take advantage of the early bird discounts now. Download the full conference agenda.

Where is the focus in Patient Experience in 2014


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