Patient Engagement – Beyond the Hype

Doctor with megaphoneBy Gregg Tarquinio, PhD

We’ve all seen the headlines: Is patient engagement for real?

Just another marketing buzzword? Here today, gone tomorrow? We in the healthcare industry find this disconcerting, to say the least, but without real measurements, can we blame the skeptics?

Though the actual term patient engagement may have only formally taken hold in 2012, hospitals have long been wrestling with how to better communicate complex diagnoses, treatment plans and medications to patients in meaningful ways that improve patient outcomes and overall satisfaction.

This isn’t just about scoring higher on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. And it’s not just another hospital initiative. Think the incredibly successful and worthy Clean Hands initiatives implemented by many hospitals across the country.

Patient engagement is about connecting with patients… in ways that make the most sense to them. Patients are online. PricewaterhouseCoopers tells us that 42 percent of adults seek health-related information online. Other studies show this number to be significantly higher.

They’re also mobile. InformationWeek just reported that over 17 percent of all website traffic starts from a mobile phone.

And now we know that patients are digital. According to a recent Arbitron study, hospital patients surveyed in eight hospitals said they preferred receiving healthcare-related information digitally versus in print.

And now the measurement: Nearly 75 percent could recall at least one message running on hospital screens. “Our research has shown viewers of digital displays often trust the information they see on point-of-care networks,” said Diane Williams, senior media research analyst for Arbitron. “This increased credibility clearly distinguishes these networks from other digital and video channels.”

Hospital viewers stated the content enhanced the overall hospital experience and provided health information both they and their caregivers could use. The study also found that two-thirds of the visitors were family members and caregivers of patients, which correlates with national estimates on the rising number of adult caregivers reaching nearly 45 million, according to the AARP.

In any patient engagement effort, not only do we have the responsibility of educating patients on their continued care, but we have a real opportunity to reach out to everyone involved in each patient’s long-term recovery process.

To be clear:  digital doesn’t replace necessary discharge instructions or face-to-face doctor/patient conversations. It gets the conversation started.

By presenting quick, relevant key messages while patients are in the hospital on the importance of continuing medications and returning to the hospital for follow-up visits, for example, we are already empowering patients to take a more active role in their recovery.

Patient engagement isn’t just a buzzword; it’s connecting with patients, family and caregivers, improving HCAHPS scores, reducing readmissions and improving the overall hospital experience.

Gregg Tarquinio PhD

Gregg Tarquinio PhD

Dr. Gregg Tarquinio is the CEO of MedCenterDisplay, a leading provider of digital patient engagement networks for hospitals. Based on his belief that patients, families and employees are most receptive to targeted messaging while in a healthcare setting, he became a pioneer in providing digital media solutions in an academic medical center. Following his research and practical experience, Dr. Tarquinio founded MedCenterDisplay in 2008. Previously, he served for 12 years as Vice-Chair of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville. He holds a Masters in Business Administration and a PhD in Health Systems Management. 


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