Engaging your patients has plenty of benefits, and not just for your patients.
It creates a partnership where you empower your patients, include them in decision making, and in turn they make an active contribution to their care — sounds ideal, right? So how can you make it happen?
Here’s a few simple changes that can help engage patients without wearing down your resources.
1. Talk with the patient, rather than just speaking at them
This means focusing on simple language that they understand, rather than using scientific terminology or jargon. You could try using metaphors to help them understand, particularly if you can find one that is close to their interests.
It might be as simple as focusing on being more mindful of your tone and showing more empathy. Whether you’re breaking hard news, or dealing with a setback to a chronic condition, patients often feel vulnerable when they’re managing their health. Simple kindness goes a long way.
Gentle and simple language will encourage patients to ask questions and help them understand the information you’re providing. Plus it will empower them and make them feel like an active participant in decisions about their health.
2. Consider providing resources like pamphlets or links
Having different ways to present information can help patients understand, and encourage a proactive attitude to their health. Taking time to explain conditions in more detail is ideal, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day (or at least, in the appointment). That doesn’t mean you need to skip the step entirely.
Give patients resources to take home and read over, videos they can watch that explain more of the details, or even have some visual aids to use in the appointment that will help them understand.
3. Encourage them to set goals and make plans
The point of patient engagement is to motivate patients to take on a more active role in their health, but they don’t have your years of study behind them. Helping them set goals and plans gives them some guidance, and gives you a way to measure their progress the next time you see them.
It might be setting a target based on their favourite sport, reducing their alcohol intake, or setting a goal for daily steps. You can recommend apps to help them keep track, whatever will work best for that individual patient.
4. Use digital communication and automation
There are lots of ways you can increase engagement with digital patient communications. Add messages about recommended procedures or tests to the booking process, automate recalls to get patients back in for regular care, and provide recommendations for apps that could help them better manage their health between appointments.
5. Get personal!
Try to get to know your patients. This might be as simple as taking notes that cover their lifestyle, support network (particularly family or spouse), or interests beyond their health.
It makes it easier to encourage healthy habits if you can suggest things that align better with their existing habits and passions. You’ll also be able to foster a great patient relationship and build a deeper level of trust.
6. Encourage patients to share the love
The more conscious a patient is of their own health, the more likely they are to be a good influence on their loved ones.
Discussing their healthy habits or goals with family and friends can help them find new ways to improve their health and it encourages others to follow their lead. If their family members are also your patients, you’ll likely find them becoming more proactive, too.
7. Continuous and consistent care
Patient care doesn’t end when they walk out of your practice.
Having a system of reminders and recalls can help you keep in touch with patients regularly without imposing too much on their time.
It helps foster loyalty with your patient, and builds up your role as their go-to GP. We know continuity of care can have benefits for patients, if only because it means you know their history and preferences.
It’s far easier to engage patients when you’ve got a strong, long-term relationship.
8. Ask for feedback, not just a rating
The more detailed the feedback, the better you can serve your patients.
Obviously we don’t want to burden the patients with complicated surveys, but asking for written feedback instead of a rating can give you a better insight into their experience.
It’s also worth considering whether you’re checking on their experience or their outcomes. Asking for feedback immediately after the appointment means their experience will be front of mind, but it’s usually too soon to know if they’ve seen the results they wanted.
Even if it’s at their next appointment, asking if they’re happy with results later can help you make sure they’re engaged and getting the health outcomes they need.
More engagement doesn’t need to mean more time
Patient engagement can take more time in the appointment, but you’ll likely find that time coming back in other ways. Once these engagement practices are part of your routine, you might just find they solve a lot of the time management issues for you.
You can reduce the time spent on attracting new patients, get the information you need from patients quicker and more clearly, and even use automation to build up patient awareness and education without taking up extra time.
And it won’t all be down to one practitioner. If every person on your team makes a small change to the way they interact with patients, it will be less of a burden on your time. And as patients start to feel that empowerment and change their attitudes, you’ll find it’s even easier to maintain.
Find out which of these strategies are easiest for your team to manage, and start trying out new ways to engage your patients.