Today, patients have countless ways to monitor and manage their health. Online portals allow them to easily schedule appointments with doctors; wearable devices help them track their calorie intake, exercise, and sleeping habits; and mobile apps empower them to prioritize their mental wellbeing.
The list goes on and on — and as medical technology continues to evolve, there will be even greater opportunities for everyone to become more active, involved patients. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what patient engagement is, the benefits it can bring, and how technology can help to increase participation among patients.
Understanding patient engagement.
In a nutshell, patient engagement occurs when individuals and families actively manage their own care, as well as the care of loved ones. These people show initiative when it comes to gathering information and making decisions about symptoms, illnesses, and treatment options.
According to a 2019 Canada Health Infoway survey, 45% of respondents said they were “engaged” in their healthcare (up 3% from 2018) — and there’s a good chance this number will continue to rise. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has fast-tracked the adoption of virtual care, giving patients the option to check symptoms, schedule appointments, and communicate with their healthcare teams more regularly.
Creating a better experience for patients and physicians.
First and foremost, greater engagement helps to establish trust and ultimately strengthens relationships between patients and physicians. It can also help to improve health outcomes, since engaged patients are likely to participate in activities that promote wellness and prevent disease.
This is even truer when you add technology to the mix. Dr. Puneet Seth, a Toronto-based family physician and Managing Principal at TELUS Health, attests that virtual care solutions and patient portals make it easier than ever for people to keep track of their medication and treatment plans while allowing physicians to provide care outside of a clinic environment.
“These tools allow the hand of healthcare to extend beyond the clinic,” he says. “There is so much that can be accomplished without needing patients to visit in person, such as sharing test results electronically. This saves precious time for when we really do need to be seeing patients in person.”
Another advantage of patient engagement? It can contribute to a sustainable healthcare industry: on average, engaged patients cost 31% less than non-engaged patients. With a strong understanding of their health, these patients are able to make better use of the resources and services at their disposal.
Taking a digital-first approach to patient engagement.
So what can physicians, nurses, and clinic staff do to encourage patient engagement? Embracing digital tools is one of the most efficient ways. In fact, Canada Health Infoway found significant associations between engaged patients and the use of digital services, especially electronic personal health records and electronic prescription renewals.
Physicians can also promote engagement by leveraging solutions that enable them to devote more time to understanding and addressing their patients’ needs. For example, electronic medical records (EMRs) and AI tools can minimize task redundancies and help streamline admin, freeing up physicians to spend extra time with patients.
In addition, physicians and clinics can adopt digital solutions that empower individuals to take control of their own health. The TELUS Health Collaborative Health Record (CHR) reimagines the EMR as a seamless platform that enables online booking, appointment reminders, secure messaging, and video visits — all from within the health record. This gives providers the opportunity to deliver high-quality, patient-centric care.
“The CHR is a paradigm shift in how we think about health records,” says Dr. Seth. “It enables you to focus on delivering care by integrating the patient into the care journey, and saving time otherwise spent performing administrative tasks and documenting.”
As mentioned earlier, virtual care also improves patient engagement. TELUS Health EMR Virtual Visit offers patients a convenient way to access care. Meanwhile, solutions like Home Health Monitoring enable patients to track their own health metrics at home and easily share that information electronically with physicians.
A brighter, more engaged future.
It’s essential for patients to take an active role in their care — and by using digital health tools, physicians and clinics can empower them to do just that. With the myriad benefits that it brings to patients, physicians, and other providers, it’s clear that patient engagement is integral to enhancing health outcomes and transforming the future of care.