Healthcare research shows that engaged patients are more likely to experience faster physical recovery and even improved mental health. The power of patient engagement touches many aspects of an outpatient rehab therapy practice.
Let’s discuss exactly why patient engagement is important by looking at:
- What patient engagement is not (and what it is)
- 5 patient engagement benefits for outpatient rehab
- How these benefits ultimately lead to better patient outcomes
- The role of technology in patient engagement
- Specific solutions and tools to make engagement easier
What does patient engagement (actually) mean?
At Keet, we like to start by clarifying what patient engagement is not. Specifically, it’s not:
Healthy engagement really means an active, two-way relationship between occupational or physical therapy providers and their patients. It should be an ongoing, adaptive strategy facilitating cooperation between the two.
An operational definition of patient engagement might include a healthy back and forth of information, shared road maps, mutual goal development as well as providers and patients tracking milestones together.
We’ll talk more about specific engagement tools and how they fit into the plan later.
Five ways patient engagement improves outpatient rehab
1. Better patient and practitioner experience
Quality communication is at the core of any good relationship. The ability to relay information about therapy, discuss exercise modification and find adaptive pain management solutions is key.
It’s also important that patients feel comfortable asking questions or expressing how they’re feeling about the treatment process. The best path to success here is to set guidelines early for both parties. This helps patients know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.
This open, two-way communication nurtures the provider and patient relationship, building trust. Therapy practitioners enjoy the win of patients understanding prescribed exercises more readily. A patient who can ask questions is more confident in executing movements properly and feels more positive about their treatment in general.
Establishing good communication habits means both the provider and patient feel heard, leading to improved patient outcomes and a better overall care experience.
2. Stronger scores in Quality Payment Programs
Better patient outcomes are always the goal. The increasing adoption of value-based payment models emphasizes outcomes further as higher scores in patient surveys equal more successful involvement in these programs.
Engagement plays a role here by integrating patients as decision-makers. Research (and common sense) indicates that active participants in their own care yield better results.
Patients with a sense of efficacy are motivated to stay on track. As any physical or occupational therapist can attest to, care plan adherence and exercise consistency leads to quicker healing or better management of chronic conditions.
Simply providing the excellent care you’re already delivering and then collecting outcomes helps measure the value you provide patients. As a bonus, it enables better scores in Quality Payment Programs (such as MIPS).
3. Helps advance learning and improvement in healthcare
Listening is powerful. When providers can hear directly from patients about which parts of the rehab therapy process were useful and which areas needed improvement, clinical procedure enhancements happen sooner and more often.
Specifically, enabling patient voices through outcomes surveys helps care providers to identify gaps in their knowledge or processes. It also informs clinics on actionable ways to improve care protocols, right down to knowing exactly which provider would be the optimal fit for a patient with a particular type of injury or condition.
Understanding what works well and where to adjust allows healthcare providers to solve issues proactively. This elevates the quality of care for the next patient and has a broad affect in advancing healthcare in general.
4. Reduced healthcare costs over the long-term
Sticking to a consistent physical therapy plan can reduce costly surgeries and other last-resort procedures. This saves patients unnecessary expense, and saves payers money too.
A study on healthcare costs and physical therapy found those who attended a single session and then dropped off paid more for care after one year than patients who stuck with therapy after more consecutive sessions upfront.
This shows how efficient and worthwhile these therapy services can be, reflecting well on the practices providing them.
5. Allows care from a distance
Establishing patient engagement practices can mean treating people wherever they are. Maintaining a strong connection with patients whether or not they come into the clinic can be the link that sees more people through recovery.
This is made possible with an easy-to-use online platform that allows patients to check off exercises or send follow-up questions to their care provider. Plus, having access to curated information on their specific health challenges and precisely how the care plan they’re following can help, significantly increases the odds that they’ll see that plan through.
Mobility issues and transportation problems can limit people in need of occupational or physical therapy services. Both the technology to connect for treatment, along with organizational tools throughout the care process can change this. We have detailed insights on driving patients to take active interest in their own care and more on patient behavior here.
The role of technology in patient engagement
As we’ve seen, engaging patients is about way more than payment program participation or ambivalently sending marketing messages to patient inboxes. It’s about running a more functional practice, improving individual patient lives and elevating the way healthcare is done.
Sound lofty? It also has a practical side. The technology for engaging patients has to be elegant and easy to use. If it’s clunky or hard to navigate, people will feel frustrated and give up. Success and positive experiences are possible, it just takes a little dose of both humanity and tech-savvy solutions.
Exercise libraries, secure messaging and more patient engagement solutions
Some key tools for a good engagement strategy include: