In decades past, healthcare organizations related to patients in a model that has been called “paternalistic”, in which doctors prescribe treatment and patients follow their instructions. However, as information has become ubiquitous, regardless of its actual quality, patients are coming into treatment armed with questions and asking for options, forcing the move to a model where they are partners in their treatment. Patients arrive often having an idea of their diagnosis, what treatments may be available and even with a host of alternative options before ever actually seeing a doctor and being diagnosed with an actual illness or injury. They may also arrive with a suspicion of pharmaceutical companies, misinformation from the internet, confusion about insurance and billing and a great deal of anxiety. Patients want to be engaged and involved in their care more than ever, and most importantly they want information they can trust. We believe that in order to create loyal patients who will return to your hospital or center, and whose families and friends will hear about how wonderful the treatment was that they received, engaging your patients by guiding them through their treatment in a hand-in-hand approach is the most important thing you can do.
Many hospitals are already paying close attention to patient engagement, and it shows in their success. Although the media often reports on glamorous perks such as organic food or beautiful rooms, these elements are meaningless unless they are placed within the context of an Engagement Model that defines the patient journey, from the moment they park their car in the lot to the time they are home and receiving after-care. There must be a unifying value proposition that brings staff, management and clinicians together, and this must then be specifically thought-out and planned for each patient segment. Most important of all, this must all begin from the patient’s perspective. While fancy rooms may be nice, if a patient has to make multiple phone calls and leave several voicemail messages before finding out a test result, the point has been missed entirely.
The process of creating and activating an Engagement Model can seem daunting, especially for hospitals which have complex internal cultures and are dealing with shortages of clinicians, aging populations and other various external challenges. This need not be the case. We have outlined here in some detail elements and processes to consider that can be used as a starting point for a conversation within your healthcare organization about how to build lasting relationships with your patients through an Engagement Model.