What is Patient Engagement and Why Does it Matter?

Haley Bass

Today’s patients are taking a more active role in their own health care than ever before – researching doctors and specialists, reviewing outcomes and best-practices before ever setting foot in a doctor’s office. This even extends to various types of medications and alternative treatments – and providers are responding with increased transparency and open access. This new level of openness and engaged patient is leading to improved health care outcomes while lowering costs.1

What is patient engagement?

There’s a reason doctors and nurses have to complete so many years of school: health care is complicated. The average person, regardless of how intelligent or well-educated they are in another field, tends to have a low health literacy. Because of this, they depend on their physician to guide them in making healthy decisions.

Patient engagement starts with closing that gap, so that treatment becomes a conversation rather than a lecture. Doctors focused on patient engagement are taking time to explain conditions and discuss different treatment options. This enables patients to take ownership in their recovery and share in the decision-making process, which makes them more likely to follow their treatment plan.

Patient engagement also means providing a source to involve patients in their health care, but hat source needs to meet most patients where they’re at – online. 87% of U.S adults use the Internet, and 72% (and climbing) of those users have looked online for health information.2 Providing online access to health records, progress trackers, treatment reminders, education, etc., will engage patients who are more willing to participate in something they can do through their computer or smart phone.

While these are the more common forms of patient engagement, the potential continues to grow.

Why does patient engagement matter?

David Veroff at Health Dialog1 conducted a study to discover the difference patient engagement made on patient outcomes. Over 170,000 patients were split into two groups. One group received a typical level of support from trained health coaches, while the other group received enhanced decision-making support.

The patients who received enhanced decision-making support had 5.4% lower overall medical costs, 12.5% fewer hospital admissions, and 20.9% fewer heart surgeries.

The significance can also be seen in online health care usage. While 80% of Americans with access to their electronic health record (EHR) use it, only about 20% of U.S. adults have that access. And they want access to EHR--41% of consumers would be willing to switch doctors for online access to their EHR.3

Online health care access is important to patients, and is necessary to improve patient engagement.

Concentra makes patient engagement a priority

With a patient-centric culture, Concentra understands the importance of engaging your employees in their health care with the following solutions:

  • Digital Portal Tools: Employees receive full access to patient portal to view health records, schedule visits, track health goals, and access health and wellness resources.
  • Customer Service and Nurse Advice Lines: Two phone lines are dedicated to assist with administrative questions and clinical guidance.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Monetary and non-monetary compensation is offered to motivate employees participating in available health and well-being programs.
  • Active Injury Care: When treating a workplace injury, our active treatment plan keeps employees involved in the work environment during recovery.

Health Policy Brief: Patient Engagement. Health Affairs. February 14, 2013.