"Patient engagement," also known as "person and family engagement" is not just another healthcare buzzword. It is a highly-productive partnership that fosters a collaborative relationship built on trust, effective communication, and shared decision-making. This extension of care beyond the patient encounter has gained significant importance in recent years.
Individuals and families should feel empowered to take an active role in their care beyond the office visit, says healthcare process improvement expert Jan Hailey, MHL, CMC, CMCO, CMIS, CMOM, CMCA-E/M. Everyone working in a healthcare setting plays a part in engaging patients.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defines patient engagement as "proactive communication and partnered decision-making between healthcare providers and patients, families, and caregivers. It is about building a healthcare relationship that is based on trust and inclusion of individual values and beliefs." CMS ties compensation to quality benchmarks.
Engagement impacts the level of care a patient receives, and how well they conform to their care plan. It includes actions such as education and encouragement. But patient engagement is much more than a 'feel-good' experience; it empowers people to take an active role in their personal healthcare.
"Patients and caregivers grade their experiences based on feelings, actions, and results; these scores are tied to provider compensation because when a patient is engaged in decisions, healthcare outcomes improve and costs go down. This is why the patient experience is tied to provider compensation," Jan said.
Jan has spent many years working with providers, management, staff, community, and payers developing strategies for process improvement, gap closures, and enhancing the patient experience. She said patient-centered policies and trust are key factors in engagement. Effective communication may involve addressing language, cultural, and health literacy barriers. Patient feedback mechanisms and shared decision-making protocols are contributors to the process. Educational materials, access to medical records, and support for self-management are other examples.
"Active involvement in care management also draws higher satisfaction marks, which may increase provider reimbursement," she said. "Your administrative team should understand the cause and effect of each interaction. We want our patients to feel informed, heard, and comfortable. When we can do this, we have earned their trust."
Medical office staff training contributes to care quality, reduces healthcare costs, and enhances patient satisfaction and overall quality of care. A commitment to maintaining an inclusive and supportive healthcare environment for all patients requires a group effort. Listen to patients, answer their questions, and explain information in a way that is easy to understand. Jan says these details matter, and patients are more likely to comply with treatment plans and take an active role in their healthcare. Effective communication also prevents misunderstandings and errors in treatment plans.
"When patients and their families are actively involved in their healthcare, they are more likely to adhere to treatment plans, make lifestyle changes, and achieve better health outcomes, she said. "Ultimately, it's about creating a positive healthcare experience that promotes patient satisfaction, trust, and improved health outcomes beyond the exam room."
For more details on how to build and maintain a culture of engagement, consider this self-paced training for your team.