By Pipsa Otra-aho, marketing manager, Buddy Healthcare.
Primarily, hospitals are used to guiding and supporting patients by making personal phone calls, sending letters or text messaging. However, many hospitals report that reaching patients, especially the patients at working age, can be difficult as patients are hesitant to pick up unknown numbers or are occupied during the regular hospital working hours.
Also, when posting letters, hospitals won’t get notified if a patient has actually received, opened, and understood the content.
However, it’s now 2020 and things are starting to change. An increasing number of patients use smartphones and the internet several times a day. As a matter of fact, Statista, has reported that the smartphone penetration rate in the United States has continuously risen over the past ten to fifteen years to more than 80% today.
Patients are looking for more and more medical information online and they are willing to participate more in their own care than in the past. Patients also want transparency of their care processes. Telemedicine and digital patient engagement platforms not only offer improvement to a patient’s communication but it also enables vast opportunities for hospitals to streamline care processes, interact with patients remotely, and automate care coordination or data collection.
Digital patient engagement enables automated care processes
Digital patient engagement has already increased the reach and type of interactions patients and nurses have with their patients now, but it will be even more prominent in the future. Hospitals can use, for example, mobile telemedicine applications, portals, care coordination or patient engagement software, video meeting software, or remote patient monitoring tools to connect with patients. New technological tools can offer transparent care pathways to patients and help hospitals and clinics engage, educate, and collect data from the patients.
Automated education keeps patients on track
With digital tools and platforms, patients can be educated and supported through mobile phones, tablets, and computers. Patients can access and read care-related information or instructions and submit forms or questionnaires when it is most convenient to them. Care teams can also determine when they want patients with specific procedures or treatments to receive education and task reminders, and digital tools will send the information automatically at the most optimal time.
Patient data collection and reporting does not need to be done manually
As mentioned at the beginning of the blog, hospitals have used to collect forms and questionnaires through different channels such as phone calls, paper format, SMS, or face-to-face when a patient is at the hospital, which is time-consuming and requires manual work. New digital patient engagement platforms can enable, for example, automated preoperative or pre-appointment assessment collection. Collecting data in advance can save much time for healthcare professionals. Also, quality of life questionnaires or patient-reported outcome and patient-reported experience measures collection can be fully automated and automatically generate reports freeing the care team from manual work.
Automated reminders reduce no-shows
It can be expensive and frustrating when a patient doesn’t turn up for an appointment or a procedure. The most common reason for missed appointments is merely forgetting. Automated appointment and task reminders, as a part of digital patient engagement programs or platforms, help patients remember what to do and when and ensure that patients are properly prepared when they arrive at the hospital.
Remote patient monitoring can reveal earlier patients at-risk
When engaging patients digitally, some platforms can also offer a remote patient monitoring feature, enabling monitoring of patients outside of clinical settings, such as in the home. Remote monitoring can give an overview of patients’ progress in their care pathways and alert hospitals if a patient is about to deviate from the care pathway. Remote monitoring can provide insights to the care team in advance of potential no-shows or late cancellations.
Two-way messaging through platform can decrease time-consuming phone calls
Digital patient engagement can also include interacting and communicating with patients safely through different kinds of platforms and portals. This can significantly reduce the phone calls coming from patients or the care team’s need to make calls. For example, patients can submit a question in the evening through a mobile app or portal and care teams can respond in the morning from their interface when they arrive at work. Secure two-way messaging is very convenient for both patients and hospitals as both parties can interact easily at the day’s optimal time.
COVID-19 accelerated the rise of video visits and virtual care
The use of video meetings and virtual care tools has increased remarkably during 2020 because of the pandemic. Even though video visits have been beneficial during the pandemic enabling remote meetings between patients and care teams, they still require nearly as many resources as physical meetings. The best practice for implementing a video visit is to use a platform that collects data and pre-questionnaires in advance from patients and helps healthcare professionals evaluate if there is a need for a video visit or if the patient should be directed to another healthcare professional.
COVID-19 has accelerated the rise of telemedicine, and more and more hospitals are now digitizing care processes and looking for more efficient ways of engaging patients digitally. This blog has been written to support hospitals in seeing the benefits digital patient engagement can offer.
Digitizing patient services and processes requires efforts at the beginning, but in the end, it can automate processes and free up care personnel time from administrative tasks. Hospitals benefit from automating and digitizing processes, and also, more and more patients will demand digital services in the future. Digital patient engagement tools not only streamline processes but also offer a competitive advantage for hospitals and clinics.