This is the first of a two-part series of articles seeking to define patient engagement in a more holistic and actionable way. Today, we’re taking a look at Patient Engagement from the patient’s perspective. Next week, we’ll dig deeper into the provider’s side of the relationship.
I started Loyale Healthcare because it became evident to me that the industry’s economics would soon prove unsustainable. At the time, I believed that the market pressures that affected every other sector of our free market economy would eventually also apply to healthcare. And that sooner or later healthcare providers would recognize that their patient-customers were the key to long-term success, a principle well understood by top tier performers like Amazon, Apple, and Ritz Carlton.
Today, “patient engagement” has become a healthcare industry catchphrase. Unfortunately, we don’t all agree on a clear definition for patient engagement. As far back as 2015, a Healthcare IT News article pointed out that “Patient engagement is used to describe everything from patient portals to social media strategies, from tracking vitals with wearables to patients actively participating in their own health and wellness.” The article went on to observe that, “Everyone seems to be talking about patient engagement, even though we can't agree on what it is.”
At Loyale Healthcare, Patient Engagement is defined as the systems, processes and policies that make up a patient’s entire provider experience, as measured first and foremost by clinical outcomes. But because a patient’s experience is much more than clinical, nonclinical engagement must also be considered. These experiences must give patients a sense of being considered and of having choices. They should support communications that are clear and complete. When a provider demonstrates these values in the delivery of our customer experiences, we tend to view our relationship with that provider through a lens of trust and loyalty. When they don’t … well, then we experience what we have today.
Patient engagement is active at every point of patient interaction, but it begins behind the scenes with empowered staff and management. It’s hard to generate a sense of trust and completeness when the tools you have lack coherence, including the tools to show you what’s working and what’s not. Authentic patient engagement empowers both patients and providers.
A successful patient engagement initiative is driven by a corporate philosophy that recognizes the character, needs and expectations of the patient. In a recent Healthcare IT News article, Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, senior vice president and general manager of healthcare and life sciences at Salesforce suggests that, “One of the first things a healthcare provider organization should do when implementing patient engagement technology is to adopt a set of guiding principles anchored to the needs of the patient.” (Before joining Salesforce, Zenooz was the chief medical officer responsible for EHR modernization at the Department of Veterans Affairs.)
The article goes on to include insights from Lisa Foust, chief people and engagement officer at John Muir Health, who advised peers that “it’s not just about mobile apps and a robust portal. In fact, some dimensions of patient engagement and the enabling technology should feel invisible to the patient. At John Muir Health, we continue to examine every facet of how we interact with patients – when responding to billing questions, when sending print communications, when patients attempt to navigate our facilities, etc.”
We at Loyale couldn’t agree more. As consumers, we remember extraordinary service expressly because the wires and levers are not obvious, making our experience feel genuine and unscripted. At Loyale, we’re working with some of healthcare’s most successful providers to improve patient engagement with technology and systems that engage staff, empower leadership and free clinicians from financially-related distractions by enabling honest, open communications.
Loyale’s patient financial engagement solutions are built around three critical areas with the greatest impacts on patient perceptions and satisfaction: Consideration, Inclusion and Choice. Let’s take a look at how some Loyale clients measure their success in these key areas:
What roles do consideration and choice play?
Today, too many of us add financial anxiety to clinical concerns when seeking care. We’re worried about our health. We’re worried about the impact on our family. And we’re worried about the costs insurance won’t cover. We want to believe our provider has the clinical expertise to make us better. Imagine how loyal we become when our provider also demonstrates the same high regard for our financial health as well.
One Loyale client is responding to these concerns by deploying Loyale’s affordability technology to present patients with multiple payment options up-front, rather than feeding them out one at a time, as they become more desperate about collecting. The results have been stunning – greater patient acceptance of their obligation, higher collection levels and reduced costs. No special magic or behind the scenes analytics. Just a clear message that says to patients, “I will give you clear and coherent information and reasonable options”, and patients responding with a resounding, “We will honor our financial obligations to you.”
Transparent choices and the provider’s consistent consideration for the patient increased the likelihood of timely treatment, the probability of payment, and a reduced cost to collect. A perfect trifecta that has increased patient loyalty as the cherry on top.
In the follow up to this article, we’ll take a closer look at the provider’s side of this intimate relationship - with some good news about positive outcomes that may surprise you. Click here to view Authentic Patient Engagement, Part 2: The New Provider/Patient Partnership. And, as always, thanks for your interest.