How’s Your Patient Engagement Journey Going So Far? Time to Check In

Feb. 25, 2022
We at Healthcare Innovation are proud to present our Patient Engagement Executive Handbook, the first volume of its kind, with key survey results and expert and industry leader testimony, to help

How’s your organization’s patient engagement journey going? If you’re like the vast majority of patient care organization leaders nationwide, the answer is probably, “It’s complicated.” Well, of course it is. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that has rocked the entire world, most hospitals, medical groups, and health systems had only begun in earnest the journey towards deeper and broader levels of patient engagement beyond implementing patient portals and revising marketing plans to reflect the growing consumerism in U.S. healthcare.

But then the pandemic hit—and changed everything. For one thing, because of all the patient care delivery changes necessitated by the COVID-19 virus, which pushed a huge volume of patient care delivery towards the virtual, patients’ and families’ engagement in technology advanced quickly. And even once key vaccines had been approved and rolled out a year ago, healthcare consumers realized they had more choices than they’d realized—and health system leaders knew that consumers knew it, too.

So the past two years have seen rapid advances in the combined area of patient engagement and the patient experience (and yes, things sometimes get a bit complicated just around the use of terminology itself, as the concepts and terms tend to broadly overlap, in any case). Fortunately for our readers, we editors at Healthcare Innovation developed and conducted a nationwide survey of our readers, to find out how far along they were and are, on the multi-dimensional journey around patient engagement and the patient experience. And what we found yielded both some expected results and some surprises.

First, of course, we asked patient care organization leaders where they were on their journey into patient engagement/the patient experience, and the following results emerged:

Ø 41.4 percent report that their organizations are “already active and moving forward with our integrated patient engagement/patient experience strategy”

Ø  Another 40.77 are actively developing a strategy, though are in the early stages of their work

Ø  Only 17.83 percent have not begun any work at all in this area

That more than 80 percent had at least begun their conscious journey around patient engagement and the patient experience, was encouraging. What’s more, we learned that most patient care organization leaders are not feeling hampered by a lack of financial or human resources. Instead, the biggest obstacle, they old us, remains prioritization. Asked what their biggest barriers are to implementing programs, respondents cited the following:

Ø  Goals and objectives competing for our time and attention: 66.95 percent

Ø  Lack of both financial and human resources: 29.66 percent

Ø  Lack of strategic direction/consensus: 22.88 percent

Ø  Lack of human resources: 16.95 percent

Ø  Lack of financial resources: 11.86 percent

Ø  Lack of support from the c-suite: 9.32 percent

Ø  Lack of support from the board: 0.85 percent

So, we dug deeper and found out all sorts of things about where U.S. hospitals, medical groups, and health systems are, right now, on this grand journey; and we’ve shared those results, along with the perspectives of industry leaders on what we’ve learned, in our Patient Engagement Executive Handbook, which you can access here, free of charge.

What we share in the Handbook is the portrait of a complex, multilayered landscape around the topics of patient engagement and the patient experience, in hospitals, medical groups, and health systems nationwide. And it really all is complex.

For example, we found that patient care organization leaders are most focused right now on developing a coherent overall strategy rather than marketing their messages to patients and families (by a huge margin: 35.4 percent versus 5.31 percent); but how to get to a success strategy remains a daunting task, as many health systems still lack a locus for the concentrated attention needed to pursue a successful strategy.

Indeed, when asked whether they have anyone in their organization with the title of Chief Patient Engagement Officer or Chief Patient Experience Officer, only 10.09 percent reported that they have a designated, named Chief Patient Engagement Officer, while 21.1 percent have an individual with the title Chief Patient Experience Officer. That said, a further 39.45 percent have someone in their organization who fulfils either the Chief Patient Engagement Officer (11.93 percent) or Chief Patient Experience Officer (27.52 percent) role. But do they have a dedicated staff? Budget? That’s all complicated, too.

Fortunately, we also interviewed a slew of leaders working in the trenches to make all of this happen, both among provider organizations such as Providence Health & Services (Seattle), ChristianaCare (Wilmington, Delaware), and TriHealth (Cincinnati), as well as among the vendor companies that are partnering with hospitals, medical groups, and health systems to make patient engagement and the patient experience a reality.

One of the clearest themes that emerged for us out of our development of the Executive Handbook is this: patient care organization leaders are for the most part fairly early on in their journeys around patient engagement and the patient experience; but they are also enthusiastic and passionate, and determined to make the most of this moment—a time in U.S. healthcare in which both providers’ perceptions of patients and their families, and patients’ and families’ own perceptions of themselves, are undergoing profound change now, and patients are seeing themselves more and more as healthcare consumers—with a range of choices, and numerous options for how—and whether—they want to engage with provider organizations—on consumers’ own terms. What’s clear, two years into the COVID-19 crisis, is that the pandemic, as devastating as it has been in so very many ways, has also awakened in patients and their family members a greater consciousness of their options—and greater willingness to explore those options.

Now, in the next few years, patient care organization leaders will need to engage in a great deal of change management, process change, and nose-to-the-grindstone work in the trenches, in order to make patient engagement and the patient experience a strategy-driven, executed reality. But what’s clear from our survey and from interviewing industry leaders and experts, is that the journey has well and truly begun all across the U.S. healthcare industry. And it’s very clear that those leaders who can really execute this in their organizations, will win not only with individual patients and families, but will also seize market-share and thought-share advantage in their communities and markets. And in that regard, we hope that our Executive Handbook will be of genuine value as they move forward on their journeys as organizations, and on the collective U.S. healthcare industry journey, going into the future.

The entire Patient Engagement Executive Handbook can be accessed here. Good luck, and Happy Reading!

—the Editors of Healthcare Innovation

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