Healthcare just may be the industry epicenter of engagement strategies. With numerous channels for ongoing communication – be it face-to-face, over the phone, text message or email – medical facilities strive to touch base so patients can take an active role in their health and well-being, which is essential to maintenance or recuperation.

It raises a few questions, though: What engagement platforms do patients actively respond to? Is there such a thing as a universally applicable engagement channel or does it all depend on the audience you aim to reach? Here are a few questions that can help you choose the best patient engagement platform.

1. Is the platform simple for anyone to use and afford?

First and perhaps foremost, the engagement platform must be one that is easy for your patients to obtain or is something that they already use. This explains why so many medical offices have found success with text messaging systems that send automated reminders about upcoming important appointments, which may be sent out a week prior to their scheduled arrival or the day before. In short, virtually everyone owns a mobile phone, 95% of Americans, in fact, according to estimates from the Pew Research Center. Smartphone ownership, meanwhile, is 77%. Conventional wisdom suggests young people – millennials, in particular – are the primary users of smartphones. That’s true, but at 67%, baby boomers are active smartphone users as well, the Pew poll found.

2. Is the platform one that your patients leverage on an ongoing basis?

Just because mobile technology may support certain types of functionalities doesn’t mean that consumers will actively use them. A classic example of this is 3-D technology that many television manufacturers included in their HDTVs a few years ago. The TV manufacturers assumed that the viewing enhancements movie goers enjoyed at the cinema would also be appreciated from the comfort of the living room. That turned out not to be the case, as the bulky glasses viewers needed to wear detracted from the quality of the experience. Today, mass production of 3-D HDTVs has all but ended.

“Emails remain a main communication channel, despite the growth in text messaging.”

With text messaging more common than ever – to the point of being the preferred method of communication for so many people, some suspect email will experience the same demise as 3-D television. Turns out email is alive and well, as evidenced by a majority of respondents – in a recent survey done by Robert Half.

3. Does the platform exist within your practice’s communication network?

Any patient engagement strategy requires some degree of investment, whether in time, money or both. But all things being equal, the platform shouldn’t be one that your medical office has to go out of its way in order to leverage its advantages. Patient engagement is all about enhancing communication by breaking down barriers. If the platform is unaffordable or doesn’t fit in with your existing infrastructure, then it could be a barrier in and of itself.

4. Does the platform offer portability?

While changing an EMR system is a large undertaking, and doesn’t come without its challenges, there are times where it has to be done.  However, with the right engagement platform in place, it may be possible to shift to a new EMR system with minimal disruption, thus easing the process and minimizing communication gaps with your patients.  This is especially true if the platform offers a patient portal.  Using a portal platform that is independent of the EMR allows for a consistent patient experience if the time comes to switch EMR vendors.

5. Does the platform come with comprehensive training and support?

It’s usually a given that any software product will come with service and support, but not all service and support is the same.  As a busy medical practice, you simply do not have the time to figure things out by trial and error.  You need to have a reliable partner that can provide you the thorough training you need, when you need it.  When issues do pop up, you need to be able to call and get an experienced support rep who can swiftly and competently resolve the issue.  Reporting an issue and having to wait days for a resolution is barely any help at all.  Without good service and support, you will end up being frustrated and disappointed.

6. Does the platform encourage ongoing interaction?

Making health data available to patients via online access has revolutionized the doctor-patient experience by providing individuals with more freedom and accessibility. In 2017, for example, 52% of patients had access to their medical records, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. That’s up from 42% in 2014.

While that’s a notable improvement, 24% of respondents said they didn’t view their medical records, despite knowing it was something they could do. This may be due to patients’ need to talk to their care provider directly, which may not always be possible via technological methods. Your patient engagement platform should be multifunctional, providing users with the ability to reach out via email, phone or teleconferencing, presuming availability.

Patient engagement hinges on the appropriate technological tools that your office and patients can adopt seamlessly. Tangible Solutions will work with you to ensure that your communication methods are tailored to your specific needs and what your patients prefer, thereby improving health outcomes and optimizing patient-centered care.

Contact us to learn more about Happe-Engage, a multichannel message delivery system that can be customized, opening the door to new opportunities in patient outreach.