Top 3 perks of patient engagement

When you help patients help themselves, the benefits follow
By Jeff Rowe
10:02 AM
patient engagement

There's a commonly held perception that healthcare is a process in which doctors take care of patients. But increasingly healthcare stakeholders are figuring out that, at times, a more effective way to help patients get healthy is to show them how to take care of themselves.

As David Wright, chief outcomes officer for GetWellNetwork, sees it, patients who are educated – about both their condition and their care – are also patients who are most likely to get and stay healthy.

"We've been collecting data for more than ten years that demonstrates that patients who are engaged in their care consistently get better outcomes," he said recently.

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GetWellNetwork develops what it calls interactive patient care tools – a fancy way of saying the company uses technology, often simply the TV on a hospital room wall, to educate patients about a number of things, including why they're in the hospital, what they can do to get out as quickly as possible and how best to avoid returning.

"The thinking is simple," says Wright. "If patients understand their condition, know the symptoms to watch for, know why they're taking medication and how to implement the necessary lifestyle changes," the chances of them getting and staying healthy are significantly improved.

To Wright, there are three improvements to the patient experience that result from better patient engagement:

  • Improved patient satisfaction. By leveraging technology to engage patients and, where possible, to improve the process of care, providers should see improvements in patient satisfaction. According to Wright, for example, work the GetWellNetwork has done for clients in the area of medication education has resulted in consistently improved scores on post-discharge HCAHPS surveys.
  • Improved quality and safety. When it comes to specific hospital hazards, Wright said the key to, say, improving the incident rate of patient falls lies with educating patients about their responsibility to take necessary precautions. According to Wright, the GetWellNetwork's Fall Prevention Pathway, which includes risk assessments of each patient and a subsequent personalized education plan, has resulted, in some cases, in 30 to 40 percent increases in safety rates.
  • Improved financial and operations efficiency. This is an easy one: Since a big part of patient discharge involves teaching them what they need to do to take care of themselves when they get home, Wright said the trick to timely discharge, and the related savings, is to give them, when they're admitted, "a checklist of things they need in order to get out on time." Then, by working with them on the list throughout their stay, rather than waiting until their medical condition has improved, they'll be ready to leave much sooner.

While hospitals may be in the greatest need of doing a better job of educating their patients, Wright said the benefits of interactive care tools are applicable across multiple care settings, including ambulatory and physicians' offices.

"It's simple," he repeated more than once, as if the point has been overlooked for too long. "When you proactively engage patients in their care, the quality of that care improves."

[See also: Power to the people! Engaging patients]


Doctor and patient photo from

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