Empowered patient

Like any relationship, a provider-patient relationship also requires good communication and trust in order to work towards a common goal. In this case, that goal would be to ensure better health outcomes. This is why patient empowerment is exceedingly becoming a necessity in healthcare today. In fact, health policies in several countries around the world are implementing strategies to increase patient empowerment in order to get them more involved in their health care.

What is patient empowerment?

The best way to define patient empowerment would be to describe it as an inclusive practice that encourages patients to be actively involved in their providers’ health services. The aim of empowering patients is to help them develop self-awareness, self-care and promote the understanding that patients can be equal partners in their healthcare decisions. In a way, patient empowerment puts patients at the heart of health services so that they are able to derive the maximum benefits from it.

Why is it important for providers?

We know that healthcare evaluation relies on patient outcomes. But lately, the benchmark for this evaluation has undergone a transformation. It has become equally important for providers to consider external non-health outcomes such as patient satisfaction, engagement etc., to accurately rate the efficacy of healthcare delivery. What this means is that patients are looking to their providers to give them better accessibility and knowledge to learn and understand the decisions that go into planning their care.

If we examine this more closely, it is evident that in some respects, the health outcomes and non-health parameters are closely linked. Meaningful engagement with patients helps them understand and participate in their care more proactively. This, in turn, improves treatment compliance and adherence, meaning patients end up getting healthy and as a result, they are more satisfied with their health provider.

Many argue that there are pitfalls to empowering patients as it promotes self-care and reduces dependence on healthcare providers. While that may be true in some respects, it is still debatable whether empowerment is detrimental to better healthcare. On the contrary, it can also be argued that empowering patients will ensure that they engage better with their providers. This means they are likely to trust their providers more and perhaps even use tools like patient portals and other engagement platforms offered by their providers.

The success of engagement lies in empowerment

It isn’t just about health outcomes, patient empowerment also improves engagement between providers and patients, encouraging better communication and limiting the chances of misdiagnosis.

The success of a patient engagement tool such as a patient portal, for instance, is solely determined by patients using it. In order for them to do that, there needs to be transparency in the information conveyed to them, in order for them to make informed decisions with their physicians and health providers. Hence empowering patients with the right information about their health, ways to care for themselves and divulging information regarding their treatment will go a long way in ensuring continued engagement with health providers. Doing this is likely to bring about meaningful use of your patient engagement portal.

The Virtual Practice offers a web patient portal that supports patient engagement services like telemedicine, text consultations and remote patient monitoring. Sign up for free to start empowering patients and improving care.

Here’s what providers can do

If you’re wondering how you can get the ball rolling to change the way you interact with your patients and to get them to play an active role in their care, here are a few ideas.

  1. Encourage patients to update and share their medication details

Being able to share their medication history – including an account of medications being taken, previous prescription details and any contraindications, would be helpful for you while also helping patients stay conscientious about their prescriptions.

Apps like Dosecast even remind patients about their medications and dosage with timely reminders, enabling them to be more diligent with their health care.

  1. Encourage patients to update their allergies and previous health concerns

Patients may not always remember to provide you with a complete picture of their health, including information about all their allergies and previous health concerns. Encourage them to update these details to help you make informed decisions about their care and prevent health complications.

  1. Tell patients about sharing information from their wearable devices

You can’t keep a watch on your patients all day. But they already have a smartwatch or activity tracker doing that every day. Apps like ContinuousCare allow patients to sync data from their wearable devices so that they can then share these vital parameters with their physicians.

Most home health monitoring devices, like iHealth devices, also allow users to view and track their measured vitals on their mobile, allowing them to stay on track with their health goals.

  1. Promote remote care to get patients to take control of their health

One of the other ways to empower patients would be to promote self-management of chronic diseases. It has been hypothesized that self-reporting of health parameters, self-care interventions and the use of healthcare services can be improved significantly by empowering patients.

Services such as the Virtual Practice’s Remote Monitoring allow health providers to engage and empower their patients by defining home care plans for patients with chronic illnesses. Patients update their health parameters periodically for review by their care providers, thereby managing their health at home and reducing the risk of unhealthy inconsistencies in their condition. In addition to getting providers and patients to actively communicate with one another between hospital visits, remote monitoring can also prevent health complications through continuous care and review – a boon for those with chronic illnesses.

  1. Allow your patients to consult with you online

Permitting patients to ask questions online provides them with the right information about their health, as opposed to relying on information from online sources. This empowers them to take the right decisions for their care and adhere to medical advice from their doctors.

The growth of online consultation services like HealthTap has allowed patients to get answers to their health queries without having to wait for their next appointment, providing quicker and easier access to healthcare services.

  1. Encourage patients to connect through video consultations

Telemedicine has indeed been a boon in terms of increasing the accessibility of healthcare. For one, it has allowed patients to consult with their health providers irrespective of geographical location. Setting up a telemedicine service helps patients with chronic illnesses, senior citizens, and patients who may not be able to make it to their appointments. Providing these patients with an alternative means of connecting with their providers improves their health outcomes while ensuring patient satisfaction.

Unlike Skype, Video Consultations allow doctors and patients to securely share and edit health records.

  1. Educate to empower your patients

Patient education can go a long way in helping patients understand important aspects of their health and care. Debunking myths, demystifying complex procedures and treatments and describing health-related concerns will allow patients to get a better grasp on options for their health care.

Platforms like the Health Network and WebMD seeks to create a community comprising of physicians and patients to discuss relevant topics about health and well-being. Instead of relying on unverified external sources, patient on the Health Network can be rest-assured that the information and health tips available to them on the network are reliable. With specific mobile apps for doctors and patients, the Health Network can be accessed on your smartphone, making it even easier to educate and empower patients.

Health providers being involved in educating their patients also has the added advantage of limiting self-diagnosis and treatment, which can have devastating consequences on patient well-being.

  1. Allow patients to schedule appointments online

Online appointment scheduling, offered by the Virtual PracticeTM and similar online appointment scheduling solutions allow patients to be more proactive in their care. Instead of waiting to connect with the doctor’s office by telephone, patients now have the option to book an appointment at a time convenient to them, at any time of the day. Automated reminders also ensure that the chances of no-shows are greatly reduced, helping providers to make the most of their day.

The Virtual PracticeTM from ContinuousCare offers health providers and healthcare organizations the necessary tools to facilitate patient empowerment through patient engagement services like video consultation, telehealth services, remote care and practice management services like appointment scheduling and revenue management. Learn more.