Patient engagement is an important aspect of the healthcare industry as it enables care providers to provide care and treatment to patients in a more reliable and efficient manner. Efficient patient engagement makes for a better, more rounded healthcare delivery system. This is why hospitals always seek to increase patient engagement. In order to do this, strategic moves and plans have to be taken. It goes beyond sitting around and wondering or implementing half-hazard plans. A team must come together ask the question How Do Patients Become More Engaged?, and use data to implement a strategy. And if you’re wondering why the exclusive mention of data it is because yes, it is that important.

According to a Helical IT survey, if a decision is made relying on data rather than pure intuition, the chances of succeeding are 79% higher. By implementing a centralized data collection process, an organization is able to make data-driven decisions. Once a system is in place, the quality and quantity of data that a business collects over the years, and how it decides to use it, will strongly influence its competitive advantage and sustainability.

Data Is Playing the Biggest Role Ever

So yes data is very important and plays a huge role in making patients more engaged in the medical care. Data Enables Physicians to Engage Patients Efficiently. Physician access to comprehensive, reliable data is one vital ingredient for efficiently engaging patients. The challenge, however, is the lack of a unified healthcare data source or true interconnectedness among multiple healthcare data sources. From individual EHRs, data warehouses, and the universe of data generated by personalized digital health devices, we are data rich, but collection and analysis poor.

The data, however, has to be timely and accurate. As managing populations of patients become more and more essential to the viability of our healthcare system, spotty data will no longer suffice. Data aggregated from across the continuum of care is, in fact, the key to enabling doctors and their care teams to manage populations of patients. Data drives efficiencies by letting care teams know which patients are high-risk or in need of preventive or follow-up care. With this data in hand, care teams are prepared to engage the patients who need it most—while gaining efficiency in the practice. The practice receives the data, an automated system flags the patient, the care team engages the right patients to come into the office, and the physician intervenes where his expertise is required most. Physicians typically want to engage patients, but they don’t have much time to do so.

Appearances May Only Be Part of the Picture

According to a RAND study from 2013, 80 percent of doctors said they were dissatisfied with EHRs because of increased documentation time and decreased patient engagement time. This is another reason why our clinical environments need to operate as efficiently as possible. When my clinic introduced patient portals to our workflow, I have to admit that, from my standpoint, it was sometimes a burden. It simply introduced more work. I would get to the end of a long day of seeing patients, only to find 20 messages from patients who required a response. Data-driven efficiencies would have given me more time to respond personally to messages that my care team had flagged as requiring my attention. That would have improved care, as well as patient and physician satisfaction.

Before deciding on what data to collect, it is important for a healthcare organization to narrow down what they actually need the data for. What are their biggest challenges and what areas of the management need a change or improvement? They should also set goals they plan on reaching, such as ROI and how this will be measured. Having a game plan in place will help avoid collecting unnecessary data and wasting the time of those collecting, and those trying to analyze the data.

Managing Care Means Managing the Process and not the Health Professional

Managed care should focus on managing the process and not manage your healthcare professional (i.e doctors, nurses, clinician etc). Understanding this principle is very crucial for quality improvement to be effective. In the past, managed care has been misunderstood as managing and sometimes micro-managing the people instead of the process. This could lead to drastic negative effects. Health practitioners should be included in the process of quality improvement as they understand the system better and are usually the direct recipients of complaints (for feedback purposes) and uses the system every day. They understand it best and should be included in the decision-making process. If the quality improvement approach attempts to manage health practitioners it could lead to a drop in working morale and even worse a worsening of the process and subsequently, quality of healthcare.

This understand goes for patients who are engaged with the doctors and other healthcare staff as well as management that oversees the healthcare professionals.  Patient engagement does not mean being the boss of all the care processes, especially because most of us don't have the knowledge base to take over and demand to be in charge of everything.  But, partnering and listening are also characteristics of engagement, and ones that are essential to great care and great outcomes.