The term “patient engagement” would make a great square on a healthcare IT bingo card, right alongside “blockchain,” “patient portal,” and “better outcomes.” The industry knows the value of patient engagement. But we find that hospitals and health systems still struggle to create a culture of engagement that’s ingrained in everything they do. 

Our partners at Wellpepper, a digital treatment plan provider, have found a way to do it. In a sea of low adoption rates, Wellpepper has managed to achieve over 70% engagement and 9/10 patient satisfaction. They've also received validation in external research studies conducted by Harvard and Boston University researchers to improve clinical outcomes for seniors and those with Parkinson disease. We sat down with Wellpepper CEO, Anne Weiler, to get her tips for ingraining engagement in all we do. We learned a lot.

1. Trust that patients want to self-manage.

Patients don’t want to be patients. They want to be well. But they have packed schedules, full-time jobs, families, and commitments that often don’t fit into healthcare’s rules and constraints. When we give patients the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge their desire to do better, we gain a new sense of empathy. Of course there will always be the handful of patients who are non-compliant with their care, and always will be. But all the technology and tools in the world won’t help them. It’s okay to focus on areas where we can succeed.

2. Make it easy for clinicians.

It’s no secret that nurses are overworked, constantly on their feet, and stressed out. Just as patients want to self-manage, nurses want to provide the best care and connect with their patients in the right way. But it’s difficult to do that when they’re burdened with administrative tasks. Clinicians have finally gotten accustomed to the EMR as their source of truth, so all other technologies should leverage that. Integrate your solutions with the EMR so nurses have one place to go to do their jobs. They’ll have more time to focus on patients and they’ll have fewer disparate points to remember when talking to patients.

3. The best engagement goes both ways.

Because patients do want to self-manage, it’s important to give them the tools that let them reach the care team quickly when they need to. According to one of Wellpepper’s recent analyses, post-surgical patients who reported a symptom or side effect within three days after surgery are three times more likely to readmit within 30 days. These patients need an easy way to engage their care teams to avoid that readmission. Engagement runs two-ways. Patients need the tools to identify potential red flags in their conditions, and clinicians need the tools to recognize those red flags and react.