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Customer Experience and Design

Happily Ever After: The Benefits of Patient Engagement – #HIMSS14

Once upon a time last year, in a town not too far from you, there was a big hospital where a bright, young physician was providing care to a sick, old patient. Okay, let me save you some time. This fairytale, unlike those you are used to, doesn’t end simply by having Prince Charming (the physician) swoop in and save the beautiful, damsel in distress (patient). This fairytale has a bit of twist that changes the standard storyline. This twist is referred to as Patient Engagement.

Changing of the Patient-Provider Fairytale

patientengagementThe concept of patient engagement has changed the way providers tell their patient stories. It is no longer, once upon a time, a patient was sick, the physician cured him/her, the end.

The fairytale now reads more like this…

  1. Patient came in.
  2. Physician introduces him or her to supporting characters (care team).
  3. The patient and physician discuss the plot (disease state) with alternative endings (treatment options).
  4. They co-write the script (care plan), including ideas for props (patient education, care communities, etc.) that will enhance the story.
  5. The physician quickly publishes (uploads to portal) the manuscript and associated material for review and follow-up (provides email, direct scheduling option, mobile alerts, etc.).
  6. And instead of “the end”, it is more like, “to be continued…”

Patient engagement is not a new concept, just one that has been brought to the forefront as part of the healthcare industry’s increased efforts around coordinated care. So much so, that this year at the Health Information Management System Society’s (HIMSS) Annual Conference in Orlando, FL., there are over 20 educational sessions on the topic. Given the importance of patient engagement, I can assure you there will be longer lines to get into these sessions than there will be to get into the castle of the ultimate fairytale princess, Cinderella, at Disney World down the street.

Patient engagement allows patients and their families to be active participants in their care through increased collaboration and communication with their care teams. It moves away from the “I say, you do” approach and allows patients and providers to make informed decisions as they advance toward agreed upon goals surrounding care. As a justifiable way to increase quality of care and reduce healthcare costs, providers are being financially incentivized, through things like Meaningful Use Stage 2, to increase their efforts surrounding patient engagement in hopes that they realize the many benefits it can bring.

The Happily Ever After

To promote stronger engagement, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) developed the Guide to Patient and Family Engagement in Hospital Quality and Safety, a tested, evidence-based resource to help hospitals work as partners with patients and families to improve quality and safety1. In this guide, AHRQ has identified and explained seven key areas where improving patient engagement can greatly benefit your organization2:

  • Improve quality and safety -By focusing on patients and their families, they become allies in your efforts to improve quality and safety. They contribute through informed choices, safe medication use, infection control initiatives, observing care processes, reporting complications, and practicing self-management. All this translates into measurable improvements in quality and safety.
  • Improve financial performance – Patient-and family-centered care decreases litigation and malpractice claims and leads to lower costs per case due to fewer complications and shorter length of stay. It can also improve patient flow and bed capacity and reduce overcrowding, with engaged patients and families serving as an early warning system for potential bottlenecks in care processes. When patients and families remain disengaged, hospitals waste resources in the form of delays and waste due to higher call volume, repetitive patient education efforts, increased diagnostic tests, and a greater need for referrals.
  • Improve CAHPS(R) Hospital Survey scores – Many of the CAHPS Hospital Survey measures reflect key elements of patient and family engagement, particularly related to patient-provider communication, pain management, medications, and discharge information. Under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Value Based Purchasing Program, reimbursement is tied to benchmarked performance on the CAHPS Hospital Survey, and hospitals are rewarded or penalized based on their performance on specific CAHPS measures. Hospitals that have implemented strategies to improve patient engagement have seen subsequent improvements in patients’ ratings of care. For example, at Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center, implementing patient and family engagement strategies on one unit led to an increase in patient satisfaction scores from the 10th to the 95th percentile.
  • Improve patient outcomes – Engaging patients and families through improved communication and other practices also has a positive effect on patient outcomes, specifically, emotional health, symptom resolution, functioning, pain control, and physiologic measures such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels. In addition, strategies that promote patient and family engagement can help hospitals reduce their rate of preventable readmissions.
  • Enhance market share and competitiveness – For many hospitals, establishing a brand identity around patient and family engagement becomes a competitive edge in the marketplace. Findings from a survey of more than 2,000 patients found 41 percent indicated they would be willing to switch hospitals for a better patient experience.
  • Increase employee satisfaction and retention – Patient and family engagement strategies help improve employees’ satisfaction with their work. This, in turn, leads to higher levels of retention and an improved ability to recruit quality talent. For example, at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Michigan, implementing patient-and family-centered care practices led to a decrease in the average nurse turnover rate (from 21 to 7 percent). The hospital estimates that higher nursing staff retention has led to a savings of $3 million over 5 years.
  • Respond to Joint Commission standards Patient and family engagement helps hospitals respond to Joint Commission’s six standards that recognize the need for patients and families to be active and informed decision makers throughout the course of care.

With its many benefits, clinically and financially, patient engagement is encouraging a new kind of storytelling. It is allowing providers to take the basic patient-provider fairytale and turn it into a memorable one, one that people want to keep reading because the ending is so good. You know, the “and they lived happily ever after” kind.

Are you writing memorable patient stories through patient engagement?

Come see us at HIMSS 2014 – Booth # 2035. himss14_top


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Priyal Patel

Priyal Patel is a healthcare industry expert, strategist and senior solutions architect for Perficient. With more than 10 years of healthcare industry experience, Priyal is a trusted advisor to C-level executives, senior managers and team members across clinical, business, and technology functions. Priyal has a proven track record of helping providers and health plans execute enterprise-level transformation to drive business, clinical, financial and operational efficiencies and outcomes.

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