Patient engagement is a term that is heard in almost every facet of healthcare today. From the technology perspective, it often is translated into how many clicks or logins equal the achievement of meaningful use requirements. My view of patient engagement from a nurse and diabetes educator perspective is quite different. I mean, how does a click or simple login translate into an engaged individual that is an active participant in his or her health?
Then what is real patient engagement? To answer this question I tried to analyze what was the meaning of “Patient engagement” (traditional patient engagement), before the use of technology and how technology has changed the scope & reach of patient engagement in the present scenario.
Traditional patient engagement-
Before I crossed over to the world of healthcare technology from direct patient care, I would’ve explained that an engaged patient is one that
- Shows up to scheduled appointments and education classes
- Monitors and logs blood sugars daily
- Is an active participant in the creation of his or her plan of care
- Adheres to the treatment plan leading to decrease in diabetes complications
These are the areas that I would’ve considered successful engagement in the traditional, face-to-face care setting in the diabetes education outpatient environment. While there IS patient engagement in this setting, the episodes are brief leaving the individual unengaged with the care team until the next appointment or class.
Patient engagement, How it has changed with the use of technology-
Today, technology bridges care gaps by fostering open communication and information sharing without the confines of a provider’s office or scheduled healthcare appointments. While an individual may be engaged when actively talking to the provider or other members of the care team, what happens in the ‘between encounter abyss’ is important in the identification of problems and achievement of positive health outcomes. As a diabetes educator in the traditional outpatient office setting, I often felt that the only way to truly help an individual stay on track would be to follow them home, to the grocery store, to church potlucks, and peek over their shoulders to see what the glucometer reads every morning, which is all completely unreasonable.
To a large extent, technology has made this possible. Now, I can log into a care management online tool, view the patient’s glucose log that has been transmitted to my dashboard directly from the patient’s device. This allows me to rapidly identify problems that would otherwise wait until the next encounter months down the road. I can see the day’s meals input (complete with photos), daily medication adherence, insulin use, and immediately send relevant, secure text messages and education at a teachable moment. Not only can I send this information, but I can also assess comprehension of the material and track progress.
From the individual’s perspective, he or she can communicate at his or her convenience around work schedules or other activities. Breaking down barriers to collaboration can increase the frequency and quality of patient engagement with the healthcare team. Patients who are proactively involved in their healthcare process; see better & faster healthcare results and incur lower healthcare costs.
Meaningful patient engagement-
If a patient is dedicatedly involved in his/her own healthcare process then this is not only a great help for his/her care team but it also results in better health outcomes, thankfully now patients can use technology to get positively involved in their healthcare process. The availability of healthcare technology has definitely increased the interest level of patients in contributing in their own healthcare. The combination of robust technology and patient’s willingness to participate in his/her own healthcare process definitely augurs well for the healthcare industry.
When it comes to meaningful patient engagement through the use of technology, there is more to gain for the patient and Care Managment team than simply counting clicks or numbers of logins. The Web and mobile technology provide a venue not only to achieve meaningful use criteria, but also open doors wide open to secure, convenient, and individualized communication between the patient and his or her care team.
By : LeeAnn Lee -Director of Care Management at Medsolis