Updated: Aug 3
In our last post, we defined the often difficult-to-define concept of patient engagement. Another way to begin wrapping your head around the idea of patient engagement is to consider the effects of a patient population that is not engaged. Naturally, clinicians want their patients to be involved in their care because when patients are engaged, they are more likely to stay on track and more likely to enjoy better health outcomes. But, when patients don’t adhere to their care plan and experience an unfavorable outcome, the negative effects can be far-reaching.
Why You Should Care
We live in a world of options. Patients have more choices than ever for their healthcare, and if they are unhappy with their experience, they will find care elsewhere. The same is true for clinicians and employees. Now more than ever, it is challenging to hire good talent and preferable to find ways to keep the talent you have. Consider that low active patient engagement and absence of supportive technology may be partly to blame for a culture of negativity - your patient caseload, staffing, and bottom line may depend on it.
This post will examine the top five clinical practice pitfalls that could be symptoms of inadequate patient engagement.
#1 Poor Patient Satisfaction
Patients want to be seen, heard, and supported. There is a long list of common patient grievances, but one of the most prevalent complaints is that providers are simply not listening. This is often directly correlated with grueling clinician schedules limiting the time available for each patient encounter.
A 2017 study out of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that one of the most significant predictors of patient satisfaction with mental health care was continuity of care. In fact, according to Fortin et al., “Continuity of care was also found to enhance QoL [Quality of Life] and community functioning while reducing symptom severity and increasing patient satisfaction”(Fortin et al., p 108). In addition, this study also found that consistent support via case management and community interaction contributed heavily to high patient satisfaction scores.
Patients are asking for more help, but clinicians don’t have the time or capacity to give more. The traditional patient experience is fragmented, a series of provider visits with whitespace in between. Implementing strategies to help patients connect the dots and feel supported throughout their journey is an essential component of bolstering your patient satisfaction scores.
#2 High Rates of No Shows and Drop-Offs
Missed appointments often go hand-in-hand with patient dissatisfaction. If patients highly value their care, they are significantly less likely to miss their appointments. If missed appointments are a significant issue in your practice, patient satisfaction is a great place to look first.
If, however, your patients are satisfied but simply forgetting their appointments or pushing them off unnecessarily, there may be a logistical issue at play. Another component of patient engagement is the patient’s ability to access the healthcare system readily. Practice management tools that enable patients to seamlessly make appointments, set up reminders, and communicate with their providers are essential for removing barriers and distractions.
When it comes to preventative care, many patients need a nudge to book appointments. Technology solutions that permit an organization to identify cohorts of patients by age, risk factors, or comorbidities will make it easier to create campaigns and reach out to patients on a large scale. Sending educational and awareness material to these groups might just be the slight push needed for patients to start booking preventative care.
#3 Clinician Burnout
Clinician burnout is a substantial problem across all fields of medicine. In a NEJM article, Dzau et al define burnout as a “syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion and depersonalization (which includes negativity, cynicism, and the inability to express empathy or grief), a feeling of reduced personal accomplishment, loss of work fulfillment, and reduced effectiveness” (Dzau et al, p 312). In this article, writers also suggest that over half of U.S. physicians report experiencing symptoms of burnout, a rate that is more than double that in other professions.
Grueling schedules, workflow inefficiencies, stress, red tape, and poor patient outcomes can contribute to clinician dissatisfaction. Most clinicians would agree that they entered the healthcare field intending to help people. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority feel like various factors tie their hands, and they cannot help their patients in the way they would genuinely like to. Without the right supportive tools to help their patients, health outcomes will suffer, as will clinicians’ satisfaction and well-being.
Using technology as a supportive infrastructure for your clinicians can help them reach their patients more effectively without adding to their workload. A well-designed tech solution can support patients during their health journey, helping them stay on track between provider visits. When patients engage with their care plan regularly, outcomes improve, and clinicians can enjoy the successes as a reflection of their hard work and exceptional care.
# 4 An Unhappy Front Office
If your front office staff is running ragged with phone calls, tracking down patients, and scheduling appointments, it is possible that you don’t have the adequate infrastructure in place to empower patients to access your services. Improving your clinic’s digital front door, facilitating patient onboarding, and implementing practice management technology can help keep your front office staff happy.
With fewer phone calls to make and return, your staff members can focus their efforts on other tasks and better support the team of providers. A well-oiled front office can contribute positively to company culture, staff retention, patient satisfaction, and clinical efficiency.
# 5 Unfavorable Health Outcomes
Patients that are disengaged and nonadherent with their medical treatment are far more likely to suffer from worsening conditions or undiagnosed problems. Without a culture of open communication, support, and engagement, a patient’s condition may deteriorate and go undetected, landing them in the ER or hospital. Hospitalization is expensive for the healthcare system, but it is also costly financially, mentally, and physically for the patient.
Information is power. When armed with high-quality and relevant information, you can empower patients to make the best possible decisions for their health. Facilitating patient access to a vetted health content library improves their understanding of health conditions and increases the likelihood of timely action to prevent health complications.
Is your practice dealing with one or more of these issues? Take a closer look and think about how these challenges may be connected. Is it possible that they may be symptoms of an over-arching patient engagement problem? If so, consider adding a supportive infrastructure of technology to help your clinicians do their jobs in a more fulfilling, efficient way and help your patients stay on track, feel supported, and achieve superior health outcomes.
At Fitango Health, we have set out to help solve the inadequacy of patient journey support with our comprehensive and innovative virtual patient engagement platform. We help clinicians connect the dots of a patient’s health journey and empower patients to take a more active role in their care. Implementing a culture of patient engagement is challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone! Request a consultation and let us show you how a custom patient engagement solution can transform care delivery in your practice!
Written by: Dr. Jessica Cobb, PT, DPT, and Director of Business Development for Fitango Health, Inc.
1. Fortin M, Bamvita J-M, Fleury M-J. Patient satisfaction with mental health services based on Andersen’s Behavioral Model. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2018;63(2):103-114. doi:10.1177/0706743717737030