Patient engagement

Raising the bar on patient engagement

By Allen Plunk

Blog    Raising the bar on patient engagement

Patient engagement has become a buzzword in healthcare. But what is it?

Is patient engagement simply sending out text or email appointment reminders and handing out disease management brochures? Or is it something bigger and more meaningful?

Front and center

Powerful forces are pushing patient engagement front and center:

  • Growth of high deductible health plans—large volumes of dollars now come directly from patient pockets
  • Emergence of value-based reimbursement programs—patient’s compliance with their treatment plan can have a direct impact on practice revenue

Simply put, if patients aren’t engaged, they are less likely to show up for appointments, comply with treatment, or pay their bills.

The consumer standard vs. the healthcare reality

Compare outreach in healthcare with the consumer marketplace. When traveling with a commercial airline, for example, you may start by calling the airline or booking a flight online. Once engagement begins, the airline uses a variety of tools and technologies—text messages, email, websites, apps, and airport kiosks, for example—to facilitate communication.

Healthcare practices engage people in more limited ways:

  • Telephone calls—to make and confirm appointments
  • Messaging or e-mail—used by more sophisticated practices to send appointment reminders
  • Patient portal—usually functions independently of other aspects of the patient’s experience

Financial communications occur in brief sparks that quickly disappear into a black hole. A patient may be told upfront he owes a copay amount. After care is administered, he may receive a bill. Little if any communication regarding financial obligations occurs between these two endpoints.

Creating a vision of patient engagement

Consider creative ways to further patient engagement. Below are some ideas for a better patient engagement platform for ambulatory care.

Text messaging to cut down on no-shows

Imagine a robust communication sent out about a week before an appointment:

Hi. This is to remind you of your upcoming appointment. Based upon your insurance plan, your copay is going to be $50. Click here to pay your copay before your visit. Click here to cancel the appointment.

This approach could:

  • Facilitate decision making by prompting the patient to pay the copay or cancel the appointment
  • Cut down on no-shows—if a patient pays for their portion of service ahead of time, they're more likely to show up

An app to improve the office experience

Imagine an app which enables a patient to fill out consent forms and other paperwork online prior to the office visit.

Integrating texting into the workflow

Following a procedure or outpatient surgery, imagine contacting the patient using channels other than the customary phone call. For example, an automatic text message could go out asking the patient if they are taking their pain medication. A second message might ask them to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Based on response, the practice could determine whether the patient needs to be called or placed into a workflow.

Integrating clinical and financial interactions

Access to financial information at key healthcare decision-making points would empower patients to feel greater control as consumers and encourage them to meet financial obligations.

Finding new ways to engage your patients

Engagement—by a consumer industry standard—means bringing together many channels of communication in a well-thought-out program that envelops the patient’s full experience.

Consider how you can use solutions and tools currently available to begin to engage patients in a manner comparable to leading consumer companies. We can help you become more familiar with outreach tools and capabilities currently offered by NextGen Healthcare.


Allen Plunk

Senior Vice President, Revenue Cycle Management Operations

Get in touch with Allen