Trends to look for in patient engagement in 2020

Healthcare providers will increasingly be seeking innovative technology as they develop new patient engagement and experience strategies to remain competitive.
By Nathan Eddy
10:00 AM

The recent growth in virtualized patient engagement, such as contacting a doctor through a mobile app, has created unprecedented access to healthcare providers and opened the floodgates for patients to initiate contact.

There is an increasing need for smart AI applications to ensure technology does not become a burden, but a relief, and a support to allow health professionals to do what they do best – deliver care.

In 2020, we'll see care plans and patient engagement become more specific to the individual, says Puneet Maheshwari, co-founder and CEO of DocASAP.

"Today's consumers expect companies to anticipate their needs and tailor their messages accordingly, leading patients to expect the same level of personalization from their healthcare providers," he noted.

"In 2020, health systems will move marginally quicker to adapt to these needs - opening new opportunities for those who are nimbler to better engage healthcare consumers, speed up time to value for patient access, and start gaining their loyalty."

He also sees increased transparency and concerted engagement between the member/patient and payers and providers.

"Health systems will also pursue a holistic approach to patient access and engagement," he noted. "For instance, providers and health systems will look to more unified, omni-channel solutions to improve the healthcare consumer experience and close gaps in care."

However, as consumers become more actively engaged with their healthcare providers across digital channels, there will be increased opportunities for privacy and data security risks.

"There will likely be more healthcare data breaches throughout 2020, but technology will be developed and deployed to better manage patient data more effectively and reduce the risk of said breaches," said Maheshwari.

"Also, through 2020 and 2021, regulators will begin to update and implement laws that reflect and safeguard patients from the evolving digital landscape."

He predicted partnerships between healthcare organizations and tech companies will mature rapidly in 2020, with healthcare providers increasingly looking to innovative technology as they develop patient engagement strategies to remain competitive.

"They will invest in tools and technologies to further streamline the patient journey from provider search and online scheduling to post-visit follow-up notifications," he said. "Major tech players will begin to focus more on healthcare and work closely with large provider and payer groups to develop new technologies that will enhance the patient experience. We expect to see many new players in this space in 2020."

While he expects to see "steady progress" in patient engagement strategies in 2020, more dramatic change is likely in 2021.

"There is a lot of uncertainty in healthcare as the election year approaches; however, customer expectations will have to be met as healthcare consumerism continues to rise," he said. "Health players will need to ensure a positive patient experience to remain competitive."

Rick Halton, vice president of product and marketing at Lumeon, said through AI and automation, doctors can ensure that every patient is following the right protocol at the right time – and when necessary, intervene instantly before unexpected problems get worse.

"The most important applications of AI and automation in patient engagement are the ones that place an emphasis on personalization, enabling care teams to tailor patient interactions based on the individual's state and preferences," he told Healthcare IT News.

He explained that as AI and automation technology improves, not only will health care specialists be able to further personalize the patient care journey, but they will also begin to leverage AI technologies to actually communicate with patients.

"For example, we'll begin to see AI converse with patients to understand their needs, educate, instruct and help them adhere to their care plan," he said. "These conversations will increasingly occur through text and voice, such as via WhatsApp, enabled by a core AI brain, to assist in the triage of patients."

Halton noted that while AI making clinical decisions still has a long way to go (due to FDA restraints), it will be used to help accelerate the processing of large amount of information, from data, text and images to voice and video, and act as the first port of call for many patients.

"It's also likely that many AI services will be offered into our home, acting as the provider's virtual brand and ultimately becoming their referral stream," he said. "Those that win in this business can wield huge influence over the industry."

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com
Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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