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Does Face-to-Face Communication Boost Patient Engagement?

Patient engagement goes beyond technology, medical information access, or even participation in treatment decisions.

- Are mobile health apps truly capable of improving patient engagement across the healthcare continuum? There may be more to patient engagement than mobile tools can deliver. According to HealthITAnalytics.com, one research study found that even among consumers who found smartphone apps useful, issues like hidden costs, unwarranted data sharing/access, and faulty features.

Mobile Health Apps

The research study stemmed from New York University where experts sought the responses of more than 1,600 survey takers. More than half – 58 percent – of survey takers stated downloading at least one mobile health app at some point in the last year.

At the same time, 41 percent of survey takers stated downloading more than four mHealth apps in a similar time frame. However, nearly half – 41 percent – of survey takers stated that they would not spend any money on these applications. Some also cited privacy and security concerns of mobile health apps.

App developers will need to consider the consumer perspective in order to truly make a difference in patient engagement and raise the purchase and use of these mHealth tools. Sachin Jain, Chief Medical Officer at the CareMore Health System, wrote a contribution for Forbes in which he described his methods for increasing patient engagement throughout his local community.

More than 100,000 Medicare and Medicaid patients are part of the CareMore health plan, but the Chief Medical Officer “felt too far removed from the real-life experience” of his patients. Despite the fact that the paperwork showed relatively good quality care, Jain went to meet the patients face-to-face and share lunches and dinners with them outside of the healthcare setting.

Through these meetings, it was gathered that patient engagement goes beyond technology, medical information access, or even participation in treatment decisions. It is important for healthcare leaders “to assume absolutely nothing,” Jain explained.

“More than anything, I have learned to never assume anything about the experience of care without consulting patients first,” he wrote for Forbes. “Over and over again, I have been humbled by how much I know about the system I help to oversee, and how much I don’t.”

“Excitement about these meetings has been contagious as some of my colleagues have begun to join me to more strongly incorporate the patient perspective into our work. We aspire together to bring the patient perspective into every conversation we have and every solution we build.”

For instance, while the patients appreciated the high levels of outreach throughout the organization, they were looking for more structure and organization, which led the Chief Medical Officer to create a clinical navigator position.

Additionally, some patients were left unhappy waiting for the transportation services throughout the hospital. This led the organization to create more timely transportation for their consumer base.

“Over the past decade–due to the bold efforts of dedicated patient advocates—we are finally waking up to the reality that patients are absent from too many important discussions. The voice of the patient is missing,” the Forbes piece continued. “Yet we have fallen short in moving beyond token efforts to incorporate the occasional patient into meetings and focus groups. We still assume too much and ask too little.”

“So much in health care is broken or misguided because we fail to effectively incorporate the real world experience of patients into our design, into our perspective.”

It seems that outreach programs in which direct physician-to-patient communication channels are open should lead to better patient engagement and satisfaction. As such, mobile health apps may not be enough to truly make a difference toward engaging the consumer base.

However, more face-to-face communication as well as video-based telemedicine services and the typical phone call could make a real impact on patient engagement.

Healthcare providers are encouraged to communicate more directly with patients instead of relying on patient portals and mobile health tools to garner greater satisfaction among the patient community.

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