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How to Increase Patient & Family Engagement in Healthcare

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Patient engagement, the process of actively involving patients in their own health and wellness, is effective in improving patient health outcomes, and increasing patient satisfaction with their care.  Adding a level of family engagement to patient care, though, can lead to even better outcomes and satisfaction for patients, families, and healthcare providers.  Engaging a patients’ family in their care process means facilitating the inclusion of patients and family members as active members of the healthcare team.

In order to actively increase patient and family engagement, it is crucial that healthcare practitioners provide them with the tools, confidence, and education necessary for them to be active participants in their health intervention.  We’ve compiled some strategies for the best ways to increase engagement for both  patients and families while providing high-quality care.  

Benefits of Patient and Family Engagement in Healthcare 

✨ Improves patient outcomes and satisfaction

Involving patients’ family members in their healthcare process has been proven to lead to positive health outcomes; research studies have shown the implementation of these strategies has led to fewer hospital-acquired infections, reduced medical errors, and increased patient satisfaction with their care.  Additionally, studies have shown new information about the care process was discovered by patients from their family members 46% of the time.

Support and reminders from family members are bound to help patients to adhere to their care plan.  As with any health intervention, patients are more likely to make progress when being held accountable.  With family support in place, patients will have more success in reaching goals and improving their health outcomes.

Improves family health literacy

Aside from improving the patient’s health, family engagement in healthcare can also benefit the patient’s family.  During rounds, having family members present improves communication between members of the care team by facilitating the exchange of new health information, which leads to higher-quality care.  Communicating consistently with a healthcare provider allows family members to learn more about the patient’s condition, and leads to a deeper understanding of health interventions and preventative measures.  

Improving family health literacy is important, especially in regards to genetic conditions.  Involving families in health care interventions gives them the opportunity to learn more about health conditions that they deal with themselves, or may have to deal with later in their lives.  Better health literacy can also lead to the prevention of acute or chronic diseases within each family member.  

Clinician satisfaction

Increased patient and family engagement in healthcare can boost clinician morale.  Developing a rapport and a positive relationship with this patient and their family over time can lead to improved clinician satisfaction.  This in turn leads to increased patient satisfaction, more empowered patients, and an overall more positive experience within the healthcare system.  

Patient portals, which are growing in popularity, also contribute to higher clinician satisfaction.  Patients can access test results, care plans, and health information easily without having to consult their physician or healthcare practitioner.  If contacting their provider is necessary, it can be done easily through a chat message or email, avoiding playing “phone tag” with each other.  Patient portals take the burden off of practitioners and support staff, by taking care of certain tedious tasks that take time away from providing care to patients.  

How to Increase Patient and Family Engagement

1. Involve patients and their families in decision making

In order for engagement to be beneficial, patients and their families should absolutely be considered equal parts of the care team.  Multiple studies have shown that most patients actually want to be involved in making decisions about their health, with the support of their care team.  In addition, healthcare practitioners view shared decision making as an approach that can have a positive impact on patient outcomes.  

Patient and family engagement involves promoting them to be active decision makers means involving them in discussions during appointments, not simply speak at them.  Patients should feel empowered and supported to contribute to their care plan. Make an active effort to ask patients and their family questions regarding their condition, their home life, and any other factors that may affect their care process.  Educate clients on their condition, and give them options for treatment plans, so that they can choose what they believe will work best for them and their family. 

2. Promote open communication

Patient-provider messaging has been shown to improve patient health outcomes; a review of research studies from 2014 showed that patient-provider messaging increased client self-efficacy and self-management in patients.  Open communication with your patients is important for building a rapport and developing a secure relationship with both them and their families.   

Creating a chat thread with your patient, and potentially their family, will help streamline communication strategies throughout the care process.  You can easily update patients and their family on changes to the intervention, patients can give progress reports, and families can ask questions and for ways to support along the way.  Frequent and personal interactions with patients and their families will help patients feel supported and empowered to make steps towards change.  

3. Curate a library of resources

As previously mentioned, educating the family on the patient’s health conditions is beneficial for both patient and family.  It is important to provide the family with resources throughout the care process so they can deepen their understanding of the condition, as well as the intervention.  This can include introductory resources, an overview of the patient’s care plan, information on supporting a family member during a health intervention, etc.  

Just as you would send new patients resources on their condition, it is important to do so with families.  Having a better understanding of the patient’s health condition and subsequent intervention will enable the family to be more supportive, as well as more active during treatment.  

4. Measure client progress

Having someone monitoring patient progress allows them to stay focused. Using a more relevant and data-driven approach will help patients feel confident in their progress, and propel them to continue working on their goals. With improved patient retention, your patients (and practice) will see overall improved results over time. Once your patients see their results forming, it will give them motivation and align them to stay determined and focused throughout their entire journey.

You can monitor patient progress in a variety of ways, whether it be concrete metrics tracking, journaling progress, or overall goal achievements.  Seeing progress in a variety of areas will be extremely motivating to patients; and sharing those accomplishments with their family will be even more beneficial.  The patient’s family can be the patients “cheer squad” every time a milestone is reached, leading to the patient feeling even more motivated and empowered throughout their health journey. 

5. Leverage a collaborative engagement suite and EHR

Virtual patient engagement in healthcare is becoming more and more common.  However, with a plethora of options for engagement suites and EHR, healthcare providers can easily be overwhelmed with balancing multiple platforms. 

It’s important for providers to have these capabilities consolidated into one platform, where they can access chart notes, send chat messages, and check on patient progress.  Patients should also have access through their own patient portal, so they can continue to be actively involved in their care by posting journal entries, metrics updates, and scheduling appointments.

If families are heavily involved in patient care, they should be able to have access to certain information within the patient portal as well.  It may be important to share when patients have appointments, so the family can come along for support or simply make sure patients are consistently checking in with their provider.  

Sharing patient progress through metrics tracking and journal entries allows families to be supportive and motivational.  A patient portal can also give families the ability to contact providers and support staff with their own questions and concerns.  

How to Use Healthie to Increase  Patient and Family Engagement

  • Documents: Healthie’s Documents library enables you to put together a shared library of documents for the patient to share with their family, regarding the health condition and intervention.
  • Care Plans: Download and share the Care Plan you’ve created with your patient’s family, so that they have a written list of your recommendations and can support the patient as they implement these interventions. 
  • Chat: Healthie Chat allows you to message directly with patients, and with families (if set up with Healthie accounts) to stay in constant contact.
  • Telehealth: Healthie’s integration with Zoom allows providers to host group appointments, giving families the opportunity to attend virtual follow-ups and gather important information on the patient’s progress.
  • EHR: Healthie’s EHR feature allows you to electronically store personal health information, intake forms, and chart notes.  You can electronically send forms to both patients and their families, to gather a more complete picture of a patient’s health. 

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