How to Empower Patient Self-Care in Outpatient Rehab

For outpatient rehab patients, performing effective self-care between visits to the clinic is an important part of getting better. But how can clinicians encourage patients in this aspect of care? In this article, we’ll take a look at key strategies for doing so.

Leverage Digital Care to Foster Patient Engagement

Did you know that engaged patients are less likely to visit the emergency room and 30 percent less likely to be readmitted to the hospital following discharge?1 Patient engagement is an essential part of high-quality healthcare. It involves encouraging patients to take an active role in managing their own care, from gathering information and making decisions to communicating with care providers and adhering to treatment plans.

Because patients who are engaged with their providers and care plans are empowered to make proactive decisions about their health, they are more likely to have better outcomes than patients who are less engaged. In fact, a higher perception of self-efficacy after discharge from physical therapy is associated with better perceived clinical improvement, lower pain intensity, and a lower number of physical therapy sessions.2 At the same time, disengaged patients are three times as likely to have unmet medical needs and two times as likely to delay medical care.3

For many outpatient rehab providers, digital care tools are becoming an essential strategy for improving patient engagement and empowering self-care in patients, leading to improved outcomes. In fact, patients enrolled in a digital engagement platform after hip and knee surgeries demonstrated a significant reduction in potentially avoidable 90-day costs, a 45.4 percent reduction in 90-day hospital readmissions, and a 54.4 percent reduction in 90-day complications.4

Communicate More Frequently with Patients

Digital care tools such as home exercise programs, telehealth, remote monitoring, and two-way messaging allow for more frequent communication between patients and providers. These tools allow patients to ask questions as they come up and allow providers to check in with them on a regular basis. This helps give patients the information and support they need to follow through with their care plans.

For example, imagine that a physical therapy patient recovering from knee replacement surgery has been experiencing pain when performing exercises and has stopped following his prescribed daily exercise routine. When his physical therapist checks in with him between clinic visits via two-way messaging, she learns about this and is able to set up a telehealth visit to demonstrate modified versions of several key exercises. The patient feels supported and encouraged to continue with his care plan and begins to see improvement over the course of several weeks.

Provide Effective Patient Education

Patients who have greater knowledge of their rehabilitation plan and condition are more likely to engage in rehabilitative behaviors such as performing home exercises.5 Online patient education can help improve self-efficacy in patients by providing engaging, easy-to-understand information on topics such as:

  • The name of the diagnosed condition, along with symptoms, anticipated tests and treatments, prognosis, and complications.
  • Which activities should be avoided and which are OK.
  • How prescribed exercises are designed to help.
  • Red flags to watch for in recovery and when a regular doctor appointment is appropriate versus the emergency room.
  • Required medications, schedules, and treatment timeframes.
  • Post-surgical dietary restrictions, allowances, and recommended menus.

Physical therapists can follow up using tools like telehealth and two-way messaging to answer questions from patients and ensure that they are managing their conditions as well as possible and performing exercises as prescribed.

Improve Patient Satisfaction

When patients can more easily communicate with providers, they report higher satisfaction levels. According to one study, connecting with patients between visits helps them feel valued, supported, ready to collaborate, and more inclined to trust their provider.6

Digital care solutions enhance patient satisfaction by providing convenient access to care. This accessibility promotes a sense of connectedness and responsiveness, allowing patients to express their concerns, ask questions, and actively participate in their care. Patients who feel heard are more likely to be engaged and report higher satisfaction levels.

Engage Your Patients with MedBridge

MedBridge offers best-in-class digital care solutions that integrate patient engagement and education with innovative technology to help your organization empower patient self-care. We offer:

Home Exercise Program Builder
Engage patients with an easily accessible and customizable library with thousands of video exercises developed by industry professionals.

Patient Education
Help patients understand their diagnosis and rehabilitation plan with engaging education to encourage them to effectively manage their care plan.

Telehealth Virtual Visits
Supplement or replace in-person visits with effective, user-friendly telehealth tools.

MedBridge GO Mobile App and MedBridge Patient Portal
Make access to care easy and convenient by giving patients the choice of participating in their care program via app or online.

Patient Adherence Tracking
Support behavior change with improved communication and deeper understanding of your patients’ actions.


  1. Jack, B. W., Chetty, V. K., Anthony, D., Greenwald, J. L., Sanchez, G. M., Johnson, A. E., Forsythe, S. R., O’Donnell, J. K., Paasche-Olrow, M. K., Manasseh, C., Martin, S., & Culpepper, L. (2009). A reengineered hospital discharge program to decrease rehospitalization. Annals of Internal Medicine, 150(3), 178–187.
  2. Souza, C. M., Martins, J., de Càssia Libardoni, T., & de Oliviera, A. S. (2020). Self-efficacy in patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions discharged from physical therapy service: A cross-sectional study. Musculoskeletal Care, 18(3), 365–371.
  3. Hibbard, J. H. & Greene, J. (2013). What the evidence shows about patient activation: better health outcomes and care experiences; fewer data on costs. Health Affairs (Project Hope), 32(2), 207–14.
  4. Benjamin I. Rosner, Marc Gottlieb, William N. Anderson, Effectiveness of an Automated Digital Remote Guidance and Telemonitoring Platform on Costs, Readmissions, and Complications After Hip and Knee Arthroplasties, The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 33, Issue 4, 2018.
  5. World Health Organization. (2016). Patient engagement: Technical series on safer primary care.
  6. Patient Engagement HIT (2020). Good Patient-Provider Relationship Proves to Boost Outcomes.