The Healthcare Technology Checklist: Virtual Care Tools to Improve Patient Engagement

Healthcare technology and software can improve patient communication and access to care, enhance patient self-efficacy, and increase patient activation and adherence, but to effectively support the needs of both your organization and your patients, you’ll need to select the right combination of patient engagement tools.

Early adopters have been leveraging online patient education, virtual home exercise programs, telehealth, patient- and clinician-facing mobile apps, secure messaging, and more to achieve these goals. But because each healthcare team is unique, you’ll need to evaluate which virtual care tools are right for you based on the needs of their patients and organizations. This checklist can help you find the right fit for your team.

Improve Communication and Access to Care

The first category of healthcare technology includes tools that improve communication between patients and providers and boost access to care for patients who may have trouble getting to a clinic for a variety of reasons. Better communication might include email or secure, direct messages between patients and clinicians, providing the opportunity for real-time feedback and the ability to modify care plans with patients between visits. Healthcare technology platforms can provide the means to send notifications, and gamification and messaging can motivate patients between visits, while post-discharge patient engagement can help reduce costly readmissions.

Improved access can include offering remote visits through a telehealth platform as a standalone or supplement to in-person care. Telehealth has been shown to reduce travel time1, improve convenience 2, and increase overall access to care3, making it one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to increase access to care. 

When choosing a virtual care platform, you’ll want to look for:

Ease of use for both patients and providers

  • You want a patient engagement platform that is intuitively designed, accessible on a variety of mobile and desktop devices, and offers easy enrollment via text or email while inviting the patient to securely download the app.
  • A platform with electronic medical record (EMR) integration will offer optimized access to patient records to increase ease of use for the practitioner, saving time on documentation and boosting patient insight.

HIPAA-compliant platform

  • While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has allowed temporary provisions for e-visits and telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll want to futureproof your telehealth solution with a HIPAA-compliant platform. HIPAA security is an ongoing process, and while technical safeguards are important to ensure the safety and security of your patients’ information, the foundation is training and awareness.

Secure encryption

  • Safeguarding patient Protected Health Information (PHI) is a top priority, so a platform with end-to-end encryption will help keep your data secure.

Technical features

  • You can improve the overall experience by finding a virtual visits platform with high-definition video, waiting room functionality, and the ability to stream HEP and educational resources within the video player. These features will help you provide a seamless therapy session.
  • Patient messaging and pain and difficulty tracking help improve patient adherence to treatment plans by providing an actionable line of communication to their clinician who can adjust the treatment plan based on patient feedback.

Enhance Patient Self-efficacy

The next category of healthcare technology tools are those that enhance patient self-efficacy. For example, this can be achieved by educating patients on their condition and the importance of adhering to the treatment regimen. If a patient is educated on their diagnosis, they’ll more readily buy into the plan of care and take a greater level of control, which can result in better clinical outcomes. Patients who have greater knowledge of their rehabilitation and condition are more prone to engage in rehabilitative behaviors, such as performing home exercises4.

Quality and engaging resources to support care

  • Access to online courses consisting of evidence-based provider education and condition-specific patient education programs, which allow clinicians to easily distribute educational content to their patients.
  • Online access to home exercise program (HEP) software can be used to create and deliver custom care plans to pair with patient education and track patient adherence. Exercise demonstration videos for therapy create more engaging experiences that increase patient confidence and comprehension of the treatment plan along with engagement.

Independent patient access to content

  • Patients can engage with home exercises and patient education from their smartphone, laptop, or desktop computer.
  • Easy access to key elements of their treatment plans, home exercise programs, and patient education materials, provides convenience for the patient, while providers can track and monitor progress as well as collect feedback from the patient. 
  • Online materials and courses for conditions, injury prevention, and lifestyle education help patients become active participants in their treatment plan, and increase adherence due to real-time access that fits patients’ lifestyles or needs.

Resources that promote and support health literacy

  • Educational information with an appropriate health literacy level or that makes good use of video, voice overs, and easy-to-read formatting meets patients where they are at to improve accessibility.
  • Translating educational resources into additional languages helps patients who are more comfortable learning in a language other than English to better understand their condition and treatment plan. 
  • Multiple options for HEP and education, including digital as well as printable handouts, can provide technological flexibility for less tech-savvy patients.

Increase Patient Activation and Adherence

The third category of engagement tools are ones that increase patient activation and adherence. The key to these healthcare technology tools are to provide a seamless experience related to home exercise programs. 

When choosing a virtual care platform, you’ll want to look for:

Engaging content

  • Provide education and home exercises tailored to patients’ specific needs and designed for a range of learning styles using different modes of content such as animation and 3D rendering so that patients can achieve a deeper understanding of their conditions and treatment. 
  • Facilitate productive virtual appointments by streaming HEP and educational resources during your online session so that you can review the treatment plan with your patients and help ensure understanding.

Easy accessibility for patients

  • Providing an online patient portal and virtual access across a variety of devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets helps patients stay engaged where they are most comfortable.

Customizability for varying patient needs

  • Pre-built templates help create new plans of care for patients and can decrease time needed to tailor existing care pathways to each patient’s unique needs. 
  • Voice over and written instructions in additional languages provide a more seamless experience for patients more comfortable learning in another language.

Patient self-reporting and adherence tracking

  • Patient adherence tracking can help identify behavioral patterns and barriers to adherence to help boost patient satisfaction and improve clinical outcomes.
  • Pain and difficulty self-reporting and messaging offer patients the opportunity to communicate their needs and add an additional touchpoint for the practitioner.

Not only can these virtual tools improve communication and access to care, enhance patient self-efficacy, and increase patients’ activation and adherence, but they can also save time for both patients and clinicians. Finding the right fit will ultimately depend on the individual and unique needs of your organization.

  1. Kairy, D., Lehoux, P., Vincent, C., & Visintin, M. (2009). A systematic review of clinical outcomes, clinical process, healthcare utilization and costs associated with telerehabilitation. Disability and Rehabilitation, 31(6), 427–47.
  2. Powell, R. E., Henstenberg, J. M., Cooper, G., Hollander, J. E., & Rising, K. L. (2017). Patient perceptions of telehealth primary care video visits. Annals of Family Medicine, 15(3), 225–229.
  3. Bradford, N. K., Caffery, L. J., & Smith, A. C. (2016). Telehealth services in rural and remote Australia: a systematic review of models of care and factors influencing success and sustainability. Rural Remote Health, 16(4), 3808.
  4. Sawesi, S., Rashrash, M., Phalakornkule, K., Carpenter, J. S., & Jones, J. F. (2016). The impact of information technology on patient engagement and health behavior change: a systematic review of the literature. JMIR Medical Informatics, 4(1), e1.