Patient Engagement Consulting & Coaching

What is patient engagement?

Patient engagement is a broad term that encompasses all manner of strategies and activities conducted by patients, physicians, caregivers, family members, healthcare provider organizations, health insurance companies and employers designed to encourage and support behaviors and actions that contribute to the greatest potential for the improved health of the patient due to active, ongoing involvement (engagement) in his or her personal health and care.

Patient engagement is not the same as patient experience or patient satisfaction, even though they are all related.  For example, patient satisfaction is generally based on one or more patient feedback vehicles (including one or more surveys) regarding how care has been provided to a patient and how the patient feels about that care. By definition, these metrics are based on past experience and are not by themselves forward-looking metrics.

Achieving greater patient satisfaction and higher survey scores is an ongoing, real-time process that requires training, coaching, systems and feedback loops.

Patient engagement, on the other hand, is measured by the ways and extent to which patients take ownership of their own health behavior and outcomes. Patient engagement is one of the desired outcomes for efforts to improve patient satisfaction and the overall patient experience.

Patient engagement is certainly influenced by patient satisfaction and the patient experience so all are important, but patient engagement is what will have the biggest impact on improving health and reducing healthcare costs. That is why patient engagement metrics will be the biggest factor in reimbursement incentives, rewards and penalties as value-based care becomes institutionalized as the basis for government and commercial healthcare insurance reimbursement.

Is patient activation the same as patient engagement?

Patient activation is a requirement for success in patient engagement but it is not an equivalent term. Patient activation is the process of increasing the education and inclination of a patient to want to understand and take part in decisions, activities and behaviors that could result in achieving and maintaining improved health. In this way, patient activation is the first step toward true patient engagement, but activation becomes engagement only when the patient adopts the actions and behavioral changes that can improve health outcomes. It’s the same distinction as the difference between “Knowledge is Power” and “Applied Knowledge is True Power.”

PAMs and PROMs

The Patient Activation Measure (PAM) is a 100-point survey used by healthcare provider organizations to measure the current level of patient “activation” (active involvement) in his or her own healthcare as well as to assess the likelihood of a patient to become and remain activated.

While PAM is a voluntary tool, something along the same lines is likely to eventually be incorporated into reimbursement metrics by CMS and, eventually, to commercial health insurers as well.

Patient-reported outcomes measures (PROMs) are important measures of quality of care and quality of life. These measures are not clinical but rather evaluation of the impact a health procedure had on a patient's lifestyle. PROMs come directly from the patient without additional interpretation, clinical or otherwise. Of course, providers must be concerned about the clinical aspects of procedures, but it is also important to make every effort to ensure that the procedure made the patient's life better, based on the patient's perspective and feedback.

Patient Compliance & Adherence

These terms are often used synonymously but are not really the same. Patient compliance is a term that implies agreement to follow direction and instruction from a patient’s provider. Adherence is a term that implies continuity and long-term patient commitment to certain health behaviors. Adherence indicates a greater level of patient engagement but it is most often used today in specific reference to medication. For example, if a patient’s doctor prescribes a medication and the patient fills the prescription, the patient is compliant. If the patient initially takes the medication as directed, that is also an indicator of compliance. If the patient continues to take the medication as directed on an ongoing basis, that behavior would be considered to be adherence. If the patient stops taking the medication, that could be considered non-compliant behavior. Adherence is really about patient ownership of their own health behaviors and outcomes, so is much closer aligned with the essence of patient engagement.

Patient Engagement Technology is Not Enough

There are many types of healthcare IT and software solutions available to facilitate and enhance patient engagement, which is certainly important and valuable. However, technology alone cannot push the patient over the engagement goal line. For example, you can have the best and most user-friendly patient portal for your patients, but that doesn’t mean the patients will engage, adopt and consistently use the portal just because it exists. Human interaction and intervention between providers and patients, combined with user-friendly technology, is the powerful formula for greater patient engagement and adherence.

Patient Engagement Consulting & Coaching

Forefront Healthcare Consulting brings decades of experience to helping healthcare providers and organizations (including hospitals and health systems, medical groups, senior healthcare facilities, ACOs, MSOs, IPAs and others) communicate and connect with patients in a way that empowers, inspires and motivates patients to take personal ownership of their own health behaviors and outcomes. Contact us to learn more about our Patient Engagement Consulting and Coaching Programs for healthcare provider organizations.

Contact Forefront Healthcare Consulting at 800-924-5447 for a discussion and review of your business and marketing challenges and an assessment of your current marketing strategies.