How to Engage Patients: Start with Strategic Planning

August 18, 2013
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patient engagementPatient engagement is on the minds of healthcare leaders today who care about the Affordable Care Act and its driver, healthcare reform.

patient engagementPatient engagement is on the minds of healthcare leaders today who care about the Affordable Care Act and its driver, healthcare reform. While many healthcare leaders embrace the engagement as a concept, challenges loom large in an industry characterized by opposing financial incentives that have, heretofore, kept patients passive, and living with preventable and progressive conditions that lead to rising healthcare costs.

According to Susan Dentzer, editor of Health Affairs, “Research shows that more informed and empowered patients, who participate with their providers in making wise care decisions, have better health outcomes – and there’s some evidence that they even have lower healthcare costs. And, if there were a blockbuster in this case, the  “drug” is actually a concept – patient activation and engagement – that should have formed the heart of health care all along.”

As a digital health champion and women’s health and caregiving advocate, I constantly explore how to engage patients and caregivers, to lower health care costs and increase the opporotunity for both improved health and better wellbeing. As a result, I have a “3 P’s” construct for patient engagement. Starting with Strategic Planning, here is the first step:

Strategic planning involves identification of unmet patient needs and may be framed according to barriers to engagement.  This completely depends on your own persepctive. Do you focus on clinical care?  Marketing and Communications? Customer Service? Caregivers? Community Relations?

Interested in caregiving, I researched key unmet needs as compiled by the AARP as part of my blogger role with them. They helped me with the resources so caregivers would self-identify and then navigate the world of caregiving. As a health and wellness advocate for women in particular, I know that caregivers do a poor job of asking for help and taking care of themselves in the care process.  

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In general, the process for strategic planning includes exploring unmet needs and mapping a new pathway to meet those needs. The mapping process helps pave the way for a greater understanding of how your organization or brand can serve a segment of your patients better.  For example, if you would like to engage your patients in your health or wellness brand, your planning inquiry should explore impact and relationship between existing and concomitant health conditions, a characterization of daily well-being routines, understanding of self-efficacy and what it will take to adopt a new health or wellness behavior.

(patient engagement / shutterstock)