The ultimate goal for any healthcare provider is to improve the health of patients. What if I told you there are non-medical strategies clinics, hospitals, and doctors can apply to achieve better results in the patients’ health?

There is evidence that shows that increasing patient engagement helps improve health outcomes. It appears that when patients are more actively involved in their care experience, it can often contribute to better health results.

This is why healthcare organizations and facilities often seek and implement strategies and solutions to help better engage with their patients

What is Patient Engagement Technology?

Let’s start by defining patient engagement. It involves encouraging patients to take an active role in their health plan and make more informed decisions. Opposed to traditional medicine, where a physician prescribes treatment and the patient decides to accept it or refuse it, in a patient-engagement framework the patient and healthcare providers work together to find the best treatment options.

One powerful way of increasing patient engagement for hospitals, clinics, and other medical institutions is using digital patient engagement tools. Nowadays, and even more, after the pandemic, the demand of digital practices regarding healthcare tasks has increased substantially, and the possibility of solving problems virtually has become a priority in patients. Still, there are healthcare providers and other stakeholders that are yet confused about what patient engagement solutions are and how they can fit into their practice.

In simple words, patient engagement systems are any type of health electronic system that strengthens the medical provider-patient relationship by making communication, tasks completion, and patient education easier and smoother. It can be, for example, a web or mobile application that allows the patients to manage their appointments.

There are existing patient engagement solutions on the market, also known as ready-made patient engagement systems, that medical providers can acquire and customize for their institutions. The good thing about these existing solutions is that they are readily available and are usually more economical; however, as they are pre-built, they might not suit your needs completely. Every institution has different workflows and systems, and when acquiring a ready-made patient engagement solution, you might need to adapt your processes and software, which might be tricky. That’s why, for consolidated institutions, with numerous services, more rigid workflows, and the need to integrate with their existing software, it’s probably better to build a custom solution.

The end goal of developing a custom platform is to have a solution that covers your unique needs, caters to your internal processes, and most importantly, increases patient engagement - which in turn leads to more positive health outcomes, among other benefits.

Benefits of Patient Engagement

  • Improving health outcomes.
  • Achieving lower costs.
  • Reducing no-shows thanks to appointment reminders and easy rescheduling.
  • Increasing patient loyalty.
  • Getting feedback from patients to improve the service.
  • Attracting new patients that are dissatisfied with old-fashioned health institutions.
  • Building strong relationships between patients and medical providers.
  • Improvements in the healthcare institution operative.
  • Save time for patients, doctors, and staff.

Key Features of Patient Engagement Solutions

The feature set of a patient engagement platform depends on the patients’ and company’s needs. The good thing about building a custom solution is that you can choose the feature set suitable for the company and its current stage, and plan a roadmap for it to scale. Some relevant features of patient engagement systems are:

Secure Messaging and Information Transfer

Secure Messaging enables patients and providers to interact in encrypted two-way electronic communications. For this, the application must be HIPAA Compliant.  Secure messaging allows patients to visualize, download, and share their lab results, imaging studies, discharge summaries, or other protected health information (PHI) to providers. It’s an essential feature that makes workflows much smoother, for all parties, saves time, and involves the patient in their personal health situation.

Patient Registration and Scheduling

Nowadays, most people hate doing phone calls, or worse, face-to-face formalities. This is easily translated to healthcare; patients demand to be able to register and schedule consultations online. The Patient Registration feature permits patients to virtually complete patient forms, and share PHI. Patient Scheduling allows patients to schedule virtual or physical consultations with the healthcare provider, which most times require integration with the provider’s agenda and a confirmation.

Appointment Reminders

Thanks to Appointment Reminders patients are more aware of their agenda, which improves attendance rates. This doesn’t just impact positively the patients’ health, it also improves the providers’ operative. Appointment reminders can be sent via text message, messaging apps, app notifications, email, or recorded messages.

Prescription Refills

Forget about wasting patients’ and doctors’ time because of unnecessary appointments with the sole objective of prescription refills. With a patient engagement app, the patient can request prescription refills when a physical check-in isn’t needed.

Online Billing and Statements

The use of online billing is becoming popular as physicians seek to provide more options for self-pay patients. Compared to traditional payment processors, this feature also frequently saves health practices money.

Types of Patient Engagement Solutions

As mentioned before, there are different alternatives when choosing a patient engagement platform, as you can either build a new custom solution, create a CMS-based software, or use a ready-made application. The right one to choose depends on the type of healthcare provider, the required features, and the budget.

Ready-Made Patient Engagement Software

Ready-made are software solutions that have already been built and come with pre-allocated features and integrations. Generally, each software has its focus - so while a platform can schedule new appointments and also register new patients if its main focus is scheduling, it may lack some features healthcare providers seek in their patient registration solution. Costs often include customization, support, and licensing. It might be a good fit for medical practices that are smaller in size, such as independent practitioners, and that have limited initial funds.

Best for CMS-Based Patient Engagement Solutions

These solutions are developed using existing content management platforms (CMS) such as WordPress. It allows creating basic features such as patient registration, appointment, or scheduling, and it can even integrate with EMR/EHR. Site owners will have to pay for third-party plugins and extensions separately.

CMS-based solutions might be a good choice if you need a quick solution but aren’t expecting expansion soon, as the system isn’t really scalable and it can limit your growth.

Custom Patient Engagement Solutions

Custom solutions are developed specifically for the organization it is being created for - so they cover all of the specific needs, workflows, and processes. It is developed from scratch, so the organization has complete control over the features, integrations, and technology it’s built on.

Building a custom patient engagement solution gives the institution the flexibility to build a platform that’s user-centered and problem-solving. The possibilities and scope are never-ending, and the impact on the patient experience is huge.

Custom solutions require time and a budget; they are usually best for medical institutions with an assortment of services. It’s the most suitable alternative for companies that plan to expand, as the solution is scalable. It’s also the right choice for institutions that have rigid workflows that can't be easily adapted to fit into a pre-existing solution.

Patient Engagement Solutions Compliant with HIPAA

As patient-engagement solutions most times deal with health data, security is the main issue. All platforms that collect, use, or store the PHI of users, and transmits this to a medical institution must be HIPAA compliant.

This is the case of most patient engagement solutions, especially noticing that it is a communication channel between the patient and provider, so it’s essential that it is secure and private.

There are some specifics to consider, for example, the access to protected health information (PHI) must be restricted with a unique username and password for every user. When building a patient engagement solution, it’s important to work with a trusted software development company that has experience in HIPAA Compliance.

Looking for Your Next Patient Engagement Solution?

Offering a patient engagement solution might be challenging for medical institutions, but the benefits definitely make the challenge worthwhile. It's undeniable that patient engagement positively impacts patients' and providers' lives and improves the overall experience. Medical institutions need to keep up with this growing demand to maintain their patients' loyalty.There are diverse patient engagement solution alternatives that suit different medical institutions, depending on their size, stage, budget, and expectations. It's key to develop the solution with an experienced healthcare software development , company that understands the healthcare industry's challenges.