February 28, 2024

Improving Patient Engagement With Effective Communication Strategies

Improving Patient Engagement With Effective Communication Strategies

Improved technology continues to bridge the gap between patients and physicians. However, technology sometimes creates barriers in the patient engagement process. Mounting evidence suggests that the least engaged patients are at the highest risk for delayed care and unmet health needs.

Some patients aren’t connected to their healthcare because they lack the information and resources to understand their illness or condition. This disconnect has doctors calling for ways to improve patient engagement. Effective communication strategies are one solution for overcoming these challenges.

Why Is Patient Engagement Important?

Engaged patients are more likely to understand their condition, proactively seek healthcare, and follow physician recommendations to improve their overall well-being.

Therefore, patient engagement, or patient activation, is the number one aim for healthcare professionals.

What Is an Activated Patient?

Activated patients are the sought-after outcome of patient engagement. Think of patient engagement as encouragement, contact, and connection.

Activated patients see improved health outcomes and a lower cost of healthcare because they’re active participants in their health. Activated patients can manage their illness without daily care or ongoing hospitalization and know whom to contact when they need assistance. An activated patient participates in activities known to offer health benefits that minimize the severity of their condition.

Challenges of Patient Engagement

Effective patient engagement can be challenging, with many barriers for healthcare facilities, physicians, and patients to overcome.

Access to Information

Access to the right information and a correct diagnosis are the number one barrier to patient activation. After all, if you don’t know what’s wrong, how can you know how to fix it?

Health Literacy

Patients often get much of their health and symptom information from the one place they shouldn’t — Google. Some individuals hesitate to ask their physician questions, and those who do seldom understand everything their doctor explains.

One of the most essential tasks of primary care practitioners is twofold: check that patients have access to the information they need, and ensure patients understand that information so they can make practical decisions and play an active role in their healthcare.

Patient Motivation

Like that old saying about leading a horse to water, you can do your part to ensure patient engagement. However, it doesn’t guarantee patient activation. A healthcare provider’s role goes beyond educating and curing patients. Providers must also take on the role of a “coach” and motivate patients to act in their own interests.

Technology Barriers

Since there’s so much information available, it’s assumed that patients know more than they do.

However, some patients may not have access to the internet or a smartphone. Others don’t know how to use it. Even if they have access, some patients may feel bombarded by the amount of information.

Effective Communication

Even after addressing the above challenges, communication barriers may remain. Both verbal and non-verbal communication between patient and caregiver can be difficult if there are language barriers.

If the patient and healthcare provider don’t know the other’s language, it can lead to misunderstandings or frustration. At worst, it can lead to medical emergencies due to misdiagnoses, wrong medication prescribed, right medication but wrong dosage, and more.

As serious as these communication barriers are, the most critical barrier to communication is a patient missing a crucial phone call from their doctor’s office. A missed phone call can erode a patient’s motivation to play an active role in their healthcare.

Blocked Calls Can Ruin Patient Engagement

Even with modern technology available, call blocking still threatens effective patient communication. This poses risks to the patient’s health and the healthcare provider’s reputation.

Healthcare providers cite the most egregious financial losses are due to robocall scams like this one in New York. Scammers used call spoofing technology to pose as N.Y. State Education Department staff or law enforcement officers to trick doctors and other healthcare professionals into providing Social Security numbers and other personally identifying information.

The prevalence of robo- and scam callers caused a rapid decline in patients answering phone calls from unknown numbers. Since the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN, physicians agree that their offices can more easily reach patients by phone. According to the 2023 TransUnion Enterprise Call Experience in Healthcare Report, 70% of healthcare professionals saw a revenue improvement while introducing a greater need to maintain caller ID accuracy, integrity, and reputation.

Strategies To Improve Patient Communication

Healthcare providers can improve patient communication and help bridge patient outreach challenges through phone number registration, vCards, and available omnichannel outreach methods.

Register Your Phone Numbers

According to the Federal Trade Commission, scam or spoof calls from April 2019 to April 2020 and May 2019 to May 2020 dropped by 68% and 60%, respectively. Still, in a survey of 3,075 U.S. citizens that used census data and respondents’ answers, Truecaller reports that American consumers were scammed out of nearly $40 billion by call spoofing or fraudulent robocalls.

Many of these scammers impersonate legitimate businesses. Doctors’ offices are one of the most targeted, forcing legitimate healthcare providers to pay closer attention to their outbound caller ID information and swiftly address legitimate calls labeled as spam. This helps you proactively protect your caller ID reputation.

Registering your phone numbers, call intent, and other call data helps your caller ID appear correctly on caller identification devices. It also ensures spoof or scam calls are distinguished before they can reach your patients.

Send Patients Your vCard

A vCard is a virtual business card organizations can send to their customers, clients, or patients via a text message. The text message includes all relevant contact information for your organization. Patients can quickly save this information on their smartphone, which automatically green-lights your phone number. Even if others mistakenly mark your number as spam, it won’t appear as spam on a patient’s phone.

Utilize Omnichannel Solutions

Your patients may follow your healthcare organization on at least one social channel and likely have your office website bookmarked on their computer. They also might have your email address saved in their email account. While you might only reach some patients via phone or text, you can employ omnichannel solutions to connect with a broader swath of your patient audience.

Monitor Your Outbound Caller IDs

It’s important to keep tabs on every phone number you use for outbound calling. Any spam or scam flags can seriously harm your caller ID and business reputation. Monitoring your outbound caller IDs for suspicious call intent labeling can help ensure you reach your patients as needed.

Each carrier maintains a list of phone number call intent labels, such as nuisance, scam, spam, and fraudulent, so how can you ensure your information displays properly, no matter which carrier handles a call?

CNAM registration is the first step. A CNAM registration is a document you provide to all major carriers that outlines your business information and proves the legitimacy of your phone calls. You should register your CNAM data across all major carriers because carriers don’t share information — you could have no issues with one carrier and multiple spam flags through another.

Proactively monitoring your caller ID information can help protect your healthcare business and patient relations. Reach out to Caller ID Reputation today to see how we can help.