Patient Care Access News

More Face-to-Face Interaction Is Key to Patient Engagement

Over 50 percent of healthcare professionals think face-to-face interaction is the most important patient engagement strategy.

By Sara Heath

More face time with patients is a top patient engagement strategy, while mHealth tools are not, says a recent survey from the New England Journal of Medicine.


The survey, administered between February and March of this year, gleaned insights from a total of 340 healthcare professionals, including clinicians, clinician leaders, and hospital executives.

Overall, 59 percent of respondents said that increasing face-to-face time with patients was the best patient engagement strategy, followed by shared decision-making initiatives, with 54 percent of respondents reporting such.

Boosting patient access to relevant services was also a useful patient engagement strategy, according to 36 percent of respondents.

Providers seemed to have more difficulty bolstering patient engagement when they had to rely on outside resources. Over half (56 percent) of respondents said that implementing mHealth and remote patient monitoring tools was the least effective patient engagement strategy. Another 54 percent likewise said that health plan arrangements providing patients with incentives to improve their health were also ineffective.

The study’s authors suggested that these strategies are less popular because they require providers to rely on third-party resources, such as technology or the health plan.

Relying on an outside resource such as a wearable or mHealth device may be problematic because it doesn’t actually enforce patient engagement behaviors. Instead, they act as an aid to core patient engagement principles. Without an adequate understanding of how to be engaged, patients cannot fully use mHealth to engage with their care.

“There is evidence that without engagement strategies, technology alone is unlikely to change behavior for higher-risk patients,” the authors wrote. “There may also be concerns about how all these additional streams of data will be handled and about the burdens they could impose on clinicians.”

The survey also delved into patient engagement measures, probing respondents about the most effective assessments.

The results for these questions were not entirely conclusive, showing that perhaps healthcare industry leaders need to reconsider different patient engagement assessment methods to better gauge how engaged the population truly is.

The most popular patient engagement measurement was the CAHPS survey, with 52 percent of respondents stating they use that method at their practice. Forty-two percent of respondents use internal patient surveys, 41 percent use third-party patient surveys, and 32 percent use employee surveys. Only 16 percent of respondent said they do not measure their patient engagement.

While the CAHPS survey was the most highly utilized patient engagement assessment, respondents said it wasn’t the most effective measure. Only 17 percent of respondents said CAHPS surveys were effective or completely effective at measuring engagement.

In fact, most methods for assessing patient engagement were reportedly ineffective.

Conducting internal surveys of patients was overwhelmingly the most effective engagement assessment strategy, and still only 33 percent of respondents said they found it either effective or completely effective. Twenty-three percent said employee surveys are effective, and 17 percent said third-party surveys are effective.

“This does raise the question of whether better tools are needed to assess engagement, perhaps involving real-time assessments of behavior as opposed to surveys,” the researchers stated.

If nothing else, this survey shows the fluid state of patient engagement in healthcare, the researchers said. Because patient engagement recently became an imperative for healthcare organizations participating in incentive programs or risk-based programs, hospital leaders and clinicians are only just beginning to determine best practices.

“We haven’t yet discovered optimal ways of achieving high rates of sustained patient engagement,” the researchers explained. “This is a rapidly evolving field, and what is regarded as ineffective today — such as remote monitoring devices — may be viewed very differently in the future, as new technologies and service models that take full advantage of them emerge.”


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