Patients and health care providers today are awash in data. Some of it, like many readings recorded by a piece of wearable tech, may not actually mean all that much. Other pieces however, like a patient’s medical records, can help providers and patients to work together to reach better health care outcomes and lower costs.
A patient engagement platform (PEP) is a piece of technology that helps to encourage patient-centered medicine by involving patients in their own care. If you’re a health care provider, you might be interested in implementing a PEP in your practice—something like the Patient Engagement Platform by Relatient, or another solution used by your peers—but the choices can be overwhelming.
Right now is a good moment to address this. COVID-19 has made patient engagement more difficult than ever before, so it makes sense to look for all the ways in which you can better center your patients in your practice.
Plus, there’s evidence that patient engagement platforms work. A study published in 2020 looked at the use of PEPs in postoperative management of patients who had undergone orthopedic surgery. According to the study, PEPs—which included “portals, mobile health applications, and chatbots”—led to “improved patient satisfaction scores and outcomes.”
The study’s authors did note, however, that for those looking to use these platforms in their practice, it is critically important to “identify what you are looking to improve upon within your health system and choose a platform accordingly.”
So, if you’re wading through a sea of apps and other platforms, this article can help to clarify what you need to look for when choosing a PEP for your practice.
Patient engagement is the process of “providers and patients working together to improve health.” That description comes from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and it makes clear how broad a field this is.
Writing in Patient Engagement HIT, Sara Heath argues that you can drill down into this broad definition to find three main areas underlying most patient engagement strategies:
As you’re formulating and executing a patient engagement strategy, it can feel like you have too many balls in the air at once; however, if you’ve got a clear plan, the right patient engagement platform can help to make the whole process easier.
If access to health data, communication, and satisfaction are the key components of successful patient engagement, then how can a PEP help you to provide those things to your patients?
In the first case, it can help to sort data. After all, this is not an area where “more is better” applies in any simple way. For instance, with the advent of wearable technology, patients began showing up in their doctors’ offices and presenting them with huge amounts of data, then expecting them to do something with it.
Instead of having patients show up with reams of data from their FitBit, a PEP can help patients to better understand how they could, and should, be involved in their own care. It can also help you as a provider to sift through data in order to see what you need, when you need it; this will help you to be more present for your patients.
According to the study cited above, focused on orthopedic surgery, PEPs can “automate clinician-like tasks” including:
On the whole, using these apps can also help patients to feel more connected to their doctors, which can lead to improved feedback and increase referrals.
With all these benefits in mind, what should you as a provider be looking for when it comes to choosing a PEP for your practice? Some key aspects are straightforward, but they’re worth articulating explicitly:
As you start to look for a PEP for your practice, be sure to understand, and articulate to others, what your major goal is for the platform. For example, maybe you’re trying to increase patient satisfaction as measured by a particular metric. You may know this clearly from the outset, but unless you let your staff and other stakeholders know, they may see this as simply another piece of technology being added to their workflow.
Instead, make a point of explaining what you want to accomplish. Not only will this help you to find the right platform, it will also help you to bring along the people in your practice whom you’ll need to implement it.
When you’ve started using your PEP, you may be tempted to make sure that it plays nice with all the other technological aspects of your practice. Don’t worry too much about that at first. Instead, focus on getting it fully implemented, then worry about the integration questions.
Finally, remember that you can’t just set up a PEP and walk away. If you’ve chosen well, it will be something that regularly provides new insights, inviting you to consider using it in new ways in response.
As you look for a PEP for your practice, make sure to consider the elements of patient engagement that you’re trying to foster. Then, consider how accessible and easy to use the platform is, and will be for your patients. Finally, make sure that you articulate why you want to implement it in your practice, and be sure to keep working with it as you use it in order to get the most out of it.