9 Secrets to Successful Patient Engagement

While technology and training strongly impact patient engagement, when it boils down to it, your interaction with each client or patient dictates their buy-in to the prescribed therapeutic treatment, ultimately impacting the outcome.

Here are nine next level tips to patient engagement you can apply in practice today:

1. Remember that patients or clients are people.

It’s important to remember that our patients and clients are visitors to the medical cultural spaces we create and maintain as clinicians. Our cultural space often isn’t normal for regular people. Our patients’ and clients’ success might depend on how we adapt our own culture to accommodate them.

In addition to benefits for patients and clients, person-centered practice also benefits the clinician. You might prevent burnout and learn about interesting ways to serve your community by innovating your practices and business models.

Get started with this course on The Patient Experience: Creating Fans for Life.

2. Never underestimate the power dynamic that favors the clinician.

Health care providers’ advice comes from years of education and experience. This means all health providers possess more information than their patients. It is, after all, why patients choose to seek a health care provider’s opinion in the first place.

However, this information asymmetry sets up a power dynamic that always favors the clinician. It’s important to acknowledge this power dynamic to connect with a patient. Provide information in an easily digestible form, whether it’s written materials tailored to the patient’s level of general and health education, or using simplified words and analogies to promote mutual understanding.

Bridge the gap with assignable, video-based Patient Education.

3. Get them talking.

A common concern of patients and clients is that they aren’t able to get their story out and be understood the way they’d prefer. This concern isn’t surprising, given data suggesting they are first interrupted by a healthcare practitioner after only a handful of seconds.1

Accept the challenge of being recognized by your patient/client as the first healthcare provider to elicit and understand their entire story. An important step to great engagement is making your patient/client understand that you understand them.

Get started with this course on Building Counseling Skills: Active Listening, Empathy, and Gathering Information.

4. Keep them talking.

Successful clinical outcomes depend on patients and clients changing their health-related behaviors. Healthcare practitioners offer a lot in the way of knowledge and skills, but without the patient’s/client’s buy-in, that training is rendered useless.

Avoid “preaching and teaching.” Instead, elicit patients’/clients’ ideas about change. Ensure behavior change strategies come from your patient. Keeping your patient/client talking will ensure you understand your patient’s/client’s stage of behavior change and self-efficacy related to changing behavior. That way you can positively influence both. Behavior change planning that comes from the patient/client will be more effective than behavior change advice that comes from you as a clinician.

Solidify behavioral changes with home program patient apps like MedBridge GO.

5. Language matters.

The words a patient/client uses to talk about their problem can provide important clues that help you decide on the best person-centered diagnosis and treatment. The words a patient/client uses can suggest their level of understanding for what causes their problem, how they think their problem should best be worked up and treated, and how they think they will do. All of these items might be the basis for education to reframe them if they are inaccurate or maladaptive in a way that jeopardizes diagnosis, treatment, or prognosis.

For example, watch this course to see specific examples of how language can affect treatment in the evaluation and assessment of pain: Evidence-Informed Assessment and Evaluation of Pain.

6. But sometimes language does not matter.

Don’t be afraid to use words that patients and clients are comfortable using. Listen carefully to the words your patient or client uses to describe their problem, test results, and treatments. Then, share in using that non-technical language with your patient/client, in order to achieve a mutual understanding.

Remember, specialized language goes with culture. Be strategic about “correcting” language, because it may run the risk of delegitimizing the patient’s/client’s sense of agency within your therapeutic team.

Break down communication barriers with this course on the generational differences: The Impact of Generational Differences in Physical Therapy Practice.

7. Keep the patient or client in charge of your collaborative therapeutic team.

We learn early on that patients and clients, the vast majority of the time, have a right to self-determination in diagnostic and treatment decisions. Then we graduate, enter practice for a few years and forget. Our patients and clients often seek our care for reasons that aren’t covered in standardized questionnaires and electronic medical records templates. Allowing your patient/client to stay in charge will help ensure they get their unique needs met.

Here are five more tips to create patient loyalty: 5 Ways to Create Loyal Patients and Improve Retention.

8. Focus on outcomes, together.

Sometimes validated questionnaires and physical performance tests reveal the solutions you’re looking for. However, sometimes they don’t. To gauge clinical improvement and create a basis for engagement, ask the patient or client why they’re seeking your help. From there, work with them to establish objective proxy tests of that deficit in self-reported functioning that you can both agree on. These ideas give patients/clients a highly engaging way to benchmark their own improvement.

To see an example, jump into this course on working with older adults to fully grasp the collaborative focus on outcomes: Improving Patient Adherence and Outcomes for Aging Adults.

9. Create lifelong relationships.

Whether your therapeutic relationship with a patient/client lasts one session or many years, a best practice for great engagement is to ensure that relationship can continue when the formal episode of care ends. Set up a specific plan for when a patient/client should contact you, and ensure they have a way to do it that is convenient and accessible to them. Patient relationship management software like MedBridge Connect can make this follow-up easy and targeted specifically to each client’s needs.

A complete patient engagement plan is essential in maintaining the relationships necessary to create lifelong patients. Request a demo of the complete MedBridge platform for your work place to see the true value of building these relationships.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/11456245/