Patient engagement is an essential part of providing safe and effective quality patient care. Research has demonstrated that patients who are more actively involved in managing their healthcare have better outcomes and incur lower costs. Additionally, patient engagement has been linked to increased patient loyalty and retention, improved employee satisfaction, reduced medical malpractice risk, and better financial performance.
When it comes to patient engagement, it is the primary care providers who are typically the front lines for engaging patients in dialogue about their health conditions, circumstances, health needs, and preferences, which is why it is so critical that primary care practices ensure they have strategies in place for engaging and enabling patients to become active members of their personal healthcare team. The following are a few best practices to consider:
- Make Care Accessible
It goes without saying that in today’s healthcare market, most patients are seeking quick, efficient, accessible care. This is apparent through the increase in walk-in clinics and urgent care facilities sprouting up across the nation. If not already doing so, a primary care practice may want to consider offering same or next day appointments and extended hours, to make care more convenient and accessible.
- Equip, Enable, and Support Patients to Engage
Patients have different goals and preferences that should be integrated into their care plan. Consider adopting strategies such as the teach back method and shared decision-making to encourage and support patients to become active members of their own care team.
- Encourage Family Participation in Care
Family is a critical resource for patient support, well-being, and care coordination. Consider including a member of the patient’s family in visits and invite them to be advocates and part of the patients care team. Patient and family-centered care can play an important role in improving health outcome therefore supporting and educating them can help to improve safety.
- Increase Communication Methods
Consider adding additional patient communication methods, such as e-mail, texting, online video calls. In addition, utilizing a patient portal will help patients more efficiently access to their records, test results, and make refill requests. By enabling patients with better access, they are more likely to become more actively engaged in their health.
- Implement a Team-based Care Approach
A patient’s interactions with medical staff can be just as important as the physician-patient relationship. Assigning specific staff members to each provider will help ensure patients become familiar and comfortable with staff. Some patients may even feel more at ease asking questions to the nurse or medical assistant. Always encourage staff to provide an enabling and supportive environment.
- Obtain Feedback
Research demonstrates the potential of utilizing feedback from patients to improve safety in primary care. Surveys can provide useful data that can help improve processes, provide insight into the operations of a practice, improve patient loyalty, and even potentially reduce liability.However, the impact of these surveys is highly dependent upon if the appropriate strategies and resources are in place to implement improvement and create tangible changes where needed.