Improve Health Outcomes Through Digital Patient Engagement Tools and Solutions

Published On: September 22nd, 20206 min read

It is widely accepted that patient engagement is an important focus for our NHS. It is critical to achieve better health outcomes for patients. Studies suggest that patients who are well-informed, educated about their condition, and involved in their healthcare decisions not only have greater patient satisfaction with care but also have positive health outcomes. The benefits lead to healthier lifestyle habits and adherence to treatment plans. Patients who are active participants in their own health care have fewer unplanned hospital readmissions, medical errors, and delays in care. This is where digital patient engagement tools can help.

digital patient engagement solutions for healthcare organizations

What is digital patient engagement?

Digital patient engagement refers to the use of digital technologies to facilitate, enhance, and encourage patients to be involved in their healthcare journey. This can encompass a wide range of activities and technologies to increase patient engagement.

Digital patient engagement aims to empower patients by providing them the tools and resources they need to take an active role in their healthcare. It can improve patient satisfaction, increase treatment adherence, and lead to better health outcomes. Furthermore, it can help healthcare providers improve efficiency, reduce costs, and deliver more personalized care.

COVID-19 has shown the importance of NHS services being able to engage patients remotely, but has also highlighted the inadequacies of some virtual channels for engaging patients, including:

  • Misinformation and confusing guidance.
  • Patients being directed to different government websites, which are often difficult to navigate, and sometimes have conflicting information.
  • 111 call centres are unable to cope with the peaks in call volumes.
  • Virtual channels are often inaccessible to elderly and vulnerable patients.

That said, the current trend for digital patient engagement tools is here to stay beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

An online survey posted between March and April targeted at healthcare professionals reported a change in routine hospital care to virtual communication. Diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hypertension were the most impacted conditions due to a reduction in access to care. Patient satisfaction has dropped as 80% reported the mental health of their patients worsened during Coronavirus.

It is important routine care continues despite the pandemic to avoid a rise in non-COVID-19-related morbidity and mortality. But with the uncertainty of identifying regional spikes and lockdowns being implemented, the ability of local health systems to plan and respond to routine care will lead to more unpredictable peaks in health services when lockdowns are eased.

Digital Patient Engagement Tools and Solutions

remote patient monitoring

Digital technologies can help the NHS in how to deal with this unpredictable pent-up demand. Some solutions include:

Virtual Data Assistants

A chatbot that patients use to ask questions about NHS information is one of the most important digital patient engagement tools. In Scotland, NHS 24 launched a chatbot to give the public accurate and up-to-date facts about Covid-19 as well as help and support them if they have symptoms or need specific services such as mental health support. The bot responded to more than 40,000 queries in its first 30 days, using clinically approved information from NHS Scotland.

Patient-centric websites

A responsive website is a digital patient engagement tool that leads to a better user experience. Most modern health information websites, such as the NHS, have a wealth of data. Information about local services, symptom checkers and living well suggestions. Users searching for information want to see what information is available and be able to explore the relevant publications quickly and easily.

The ability to analyse the patient experience and data they are searching for will support the NHS in having access to additional insights that will enable better care planning and anticipate regional peaks in routine care for chronic or mental health conditions.

Patient Self-Scheduling

Patient self-scheduling is an important component of digital patient engagement tools. It’s a technology-enabled system that allows patients to schedule their own appointments online without having to call a doctor’s office or hospital and can also send appointment reminders. This feature is usually part of a larger patient portal or electronic health record (EHR) system.

It’s important for healthcare providers to implement these digital patient engagement tools in a way that considers the needs and capabilities of all patients, including those who may be less technologically savvy. Providing training or clear instructions to help educate patients can help ensure that everyone will be able to take advantage of this feature and improve patient engagement.

Virtual consultations

Digital patient engagement tools allow for remote video consultations between clinicians and patients. We have seen a significant increase in recent months in the use of virtual consultations for routine care appointments, as well as for counseling and mental health consultations. They have proved to be an effective medium for supporting independence and self-confidence among young people aged 12–18 years.

In a 15-minute virtual appointment once a week, nurses supported participating patients to improve their continence and self-care. Participants reported that they felt more confident talking about personal issues online rather than face-to-face. They also valued the privacy that online consultations allowed feeling more confident, speaking to a nurse on their own about personal concerns without the need for a parent to be present.

Remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a transformative aspect of digital patient engagement tools that are gaining significant traction in the healthcare industry. This technology includes daily monitoring devices for chronic diseases, digital thermometers for fever management, and wireless, wearable devices for general health tracking through online patient portals.

With RPM, healthcare providers can monitor patients’ health data in real-time, allowing them to quickly react to any alarming changes and prevent potential health crises. Additionally, patients can actively engage with their health by seeing their own data, gaining a deeper understanding of their condition, and taking proactive steps to manage it through their patient access portal. RPM can be particularly beneficial for managing chronic diseases, like diabetes or heart disease, as it is one of the best-automated patient engagement solutions that allow continuous monitoring without requiring the patient to frequently visit a healthcare facility.

The potential of RPM to revolutionize patient care and patient engagement is immense if patient education is done right, promising a more proactive, personalized, and efficient approach to healthcare services.

Converging Data and User Experience

doctor discussing patient outcomes through digital patient engagement tools

At DMI, we believe that at the centre of every successful technology product is a converged data and user experience strategy. This means that data is captured, exposed, and leveraged where relevant to meet the patients’ needs. When user experience research and design is incorporated into technology, innovative ideas come to light. Understanding user needs and journeys at a more fundamental level allow for new opportunities and ideas to emerge.

If you would like to know how DMI can support your digital health patient engagement please contact the healthcare team at [email protected].

-Assad Tabet, senior client partner