How To Improve Patient Engagement In Health Care

A century ago a simple infection could spell doom, hospital stays were considered a last resort, and house-calls were common. Even though overall mortality was far higher, a wistful nostalgia exists for that earlier time when medicine was not always perceived as a business transaction. Learning how to improve patient engagement humanizes health-care, while also strengthening the bottom line.

There are ongoing political battles surrounding health care, but most have little to do with actual human perceptions of modern medicine. Although few people really look forward to a doctor visit, those who feel that they are viewed as a faceless condition or nameless statistic have less incentive and motivation to take greater responsibility for their own personal health issues.

Regardless of logic, intelligence, or education, many people find medicine stressful or intimidating. Doctors today are limited to a few minutes of face-to-face communication, during which time they must not only evaluate disease, but also outline treatment. Most people search the Internet for their own symptoms and solutions prior to an appointment, but that practice is usually discouraged.

While a paternalistic approach may have been acceptable in the past, the digital age has only increased demands for medical information. Many hospitals and physicians were slow at first to adopt electronic records-keeping, but have now created online portals where people can access personal medical histories, medications and treatments. Having that knowledge helps create a sense of empowerment and involvement.

Instead of feeling left out of the process, better communications help patients feel more enthusiastic about making wiser daily personal health choices. Improved overall health means fewer costly hospitalizations, unnecessary appointments, and results in a decrease in prescribed medication. For many people, the most important benefit is an improved relationship with their physician.

Those who choose to participate can communicate electronically with doctors via e-mail, and expect a response. Many are asked to rate their physician periodically via an on-line survey. All treatment choices are presented, and there is less mystery surrounding the options. In many cases, patients will choose the less expensive treatment when combined with necessary alterations in detrimental health practices.

They key to increasing patient participation in good health is a genuine respect for those seeking care, in combination with the knowledge that good medical practice is more than medication or surgery. Involvement of both patient and family members at all levels not only helps improve the bottom line, but also benefits long-term outcomes, increasing overall satisfaction on both sides.

Edward J. Stark is a marketing expert that specializes in healthcare focused marketing. If you are interested in learning more about hospital advertising he suggests that you check out

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