Patient Engagement Goals Not A Good Fit With Tech Investment Ideas

A new survey has found that while most healthcare organizations take patient engagement seriously, few are satisfied with the state of their efforts. On top of that, the results suggest that their patient engagement goals and expectations for such technology aren’t aligned very well, which can’t be helping matters.

CipherHealth and Modern Healthcare recently surveyed 217 healthcare leaders to find out more about the current state of their patient engagement strategies. One of the survey’s key conclusions was that more than 80% of respondents saw patient engagement is a high priority for their organization.

According to the researchers, this comes as part of a larger trend in which hospitals are working to partner with ambulatory and post-acute-care partners to conquer value-based care obstacles. Hospitals and health systems are concluding that their patient engagement strategy must extend outside of the inpatient setting to across their entire care delivery network, the research sponsors suggest.

Despite the importance they’re assigning to patient engagement, just 20% of respondents reported being satisfied with their current patient engagement programs. They said the key barriers to patient engagement success included staffing, technology and human resources which, as the researchers point out, are largely cost issues.

However, technology spending in particular could yield results, the survey suggests. More than two thirds (69%) of survey respondents said that they could improve outcomes of the investment in better patient engagement technology. (Side note: it is worth bearing in mind that co-sponsor CipherHealth sells patient engagement technology, though this doesn’t make the conclusion wrong in and of itself.)

According to the survey, features health leaders look for when investing in patient engagement platforms include demonstrable outcomes (67%), ability to deploy across the care continuum (56%), the capacity to communicate across multiple channels including calling, text, and email (52%) and EMR integration (50%).

Meanwhile, almost every respondent (94%) reported that one of the key goals of their patient engagement strategy was improving their HCAHPS scores, followed by 66% citing impact on patient outcomes and 65% readmission reductions as key performance indicators. Are the above features a good fit with these goals? I’ve more to say on this below.

To achieve these improvements, one of the best places to focus is on care transitions, the healthcare leaders reported. Eighty-three percent of respondents said post-discharge follow-up was an important element of their patient engagement strategy, followed by appointment scheduling/reminders (76%), rounding on patients (74%), care management (84%), screenings and preventive health outreach (65%), patient portals (62%) and bedside education and entertainment (53%).

I don’t know about you, but it’s not clear to me that providers and vendors in the space are speaking the same language. In particular, providers are divided in what they’re measuring when it comes to patient engagement. The survey results suggest that healthcare organizations are still experimenting with how to keep moving patient satisfaction scores up — and that that there’s some meaningful disagreement as to what really matters when it comes to deploying such strategies.

The real questions are, do we really know what IT tools we need to take patient engagement to the next level, and is there any proof that these assumptions are based on fact? I think health IT execs might need more evidence of what works before making big investments in patient engagement technologies. How about you?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

1 Comment

  • The dichotomy of provider and vendor pursuits is certainly a challenge in this space. I did a lot of work investigating Patient Engagement this summer, and the number one thing I found is that it means very different things in the FFS vs. the VBC space. In FFS, it is all about how can we optimize schedule density so that docs can see (and be reimbursed for) as many patients as possible. In VBC, it is about engaging patients outside the clinic to ensure they are adhering to treatment plans that minimize exacerbations. The business model really changes the goals.

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