The healthcare sector has been slow in adopting technology. However, times are changing, and an increasing number of patients want to benefit from digitalization. According to a recent survey by Accenture, 60% of respondents prefer to use technology for patient-provider communication. Consequently, digital healthcare solutions are gaining popularity. Particularly, this change is reflected in the growth of the patient engagement market. The global patient engagement solutions market size was valued at $15.1 billion in 2020, and it is estimated to expand at a CAGR of 21.4% by 2028. The US patient engagement technology market, meanwhile, is expected to reach $9.4 billion by 2023.
So, how software for patient engagement works? Which options do you have if you decide to deploy such a tool at your healthcare facility? And what is the cost of digital patient engagement solutions? Our latest article will shed light on these (and many more!) questions.
Patient engagement is a partnership between a patient and their healthcare providers team where both sides share information and search for the best treatment options.
It is opposed to the conventional rigid system where the doctor prescribes one treatment course, and the patient feels free to either accept or ignore it instead of attempting to discuss other options. Nowadays, the healthcare sector is turning to technology to increase patient engagement in general and handle COVID-19 in particular. Using technology, doctors can reach their patients anytime and anywhere, foresee and mitigate deterioration in patients’ conditions, and provide helpful information at the right time. These goals can be achieved with the help of patient engagement software — an application or a set of interconnected systems designed to facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers, offer educational resources, and otherwise manage the patient-doctor relationship.
If you want to purchase/build a patient engagement solution for your hospital, here is a list of basic features your system can offer:
- Registering new patients and managing their medical history online
- Scheduling and rescheduling appointments
- Sending automatic appointment reminders either via text or voice messages
- Supporting patient education using customized content
- Facilitating online billing and payments
- Minimizing no-shows with appointment reminders and effortless rescheduling
- Establishing loyalty as patients fill in post-appointment surveys and doctors get the chance to adapt to individual patients’ needs
- Attracting new patients as some of these solutions support marketing campaigns
- Improving patient compliance as they feel involved in the decision-making process
- Enhancing communication between patients and their healthcare providers
Poor patient engagement strategies have a drastic impact on hospitals and the healthcare sector in general — and that’s not to mention patients’ outcomes.
Here are some of the consequences of not keeping patients engaged:
According to Puneet Maheshwari, the man behind the DocASAP patient access and engagement platforms, “Today’s consumers expect companies to anticipate their needs and tailor their messages accordingly, leading patients to expect the same level of personalization from their healthcare providers.” Maheshwari’s words are echoed by a recent survey, which claims that 75% of US consumers wish for a more customized experience when it comes to receiving healthcare services. If one clinic does not offer it, patients will find the one that does. Consequently, hospitals that ignore patient engagement might lose their patients. Furthermore, improving patient engagement has an economic agenda. Aaron Martin, Chief Digital Officer at Providence, describes the problem as follows: “Engagement in healthcare has two benefits. One is you really start to build a sticky relationship with your patients. There’s also a big economic opportunity in that if you’re entering into risk-based contracts, if you help build a healthier population, your economics are much, much better as a provider.”
- Less optimistic patient outcomes
Adults who are disengaged and refuse to play an active role in their health are less likely to adhere to the prescribed treatment plans. According to recent studies, medication non-adherence affects up to 50% of patients with chronic conditions. Skipping medication has severe consequences and can even result in death. About 125,000 patients die annually in the US due to medication non-adherence.
- Rising healthcare expenses
The lack of patients’ involvement in their own health and wellbeing leads to an increase in healthcare costs. As people avoid regular medical checkups and ignore their chronic condition management plans, they often fail to catch the early signs of diseases and contact providers when it is already too late, which leads to a prolonged and more expensive treatment. The US spent around $10,966 per person on healthcare in 2019. This is almost double of what other developed countries paid on average.
Source: Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker
Tools for patient engagement leverage innovative technology to improve user experience. Many organizations are already deploying technologies to reach out to patients at least 12 times a year, with AI and IoT being the most promising solutions in their toolbox.
Already back in 2018, 60% of healthcare organizations worldwide deployed IoT in their facilities. One of the most prominent applications of IoT in healthcare is remote patient monitoring. Patients use connected devices to capture relevant medical information and share it with their doctors. For example, IoT devices can collect data on vital signs, such as heartbeat, glucose levels, weight, mood swings, and sleeping patterns. All this data is transmitted to the provider, allowing them to catch on early signs of change in patients’ physical condition and overall wellbeing. When patients are directly involved in tracking their medical data, they become mindful of any changes in their current condition, which will make them more compliant and eager to participate in treatment options selection.
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Here’s what Kevin Pawl, Senior Director of Patient Access at Boston Children’s Hospital, says about AI:
“You’re not calling a hospital with the joy of going on vacation or going on a trip or staying in a hotel, but it would be awful nice if the service and the experience were similar. That’s what we were trying to achieve as we tap into artificial intelligence.”
AI solutions in healthcare can increase patient engagement in a variety of ways:
- Employing risk assessment strategies. AI can go through patient data and identify patients with a high risk of developing a particular disease and predict their healthcare needs. Based on this information, physicians reach out to high-risk patients and invite them for additional screenings or suggest a personalized preventive/curing treatment plan.
- Relying on AI-powered chatbots for 24/7 communication. Calling a hospital can be daunting as patients are put on hold for prolonged periods of time. Intelligent chatbots can serve as the first line of response by filtering patient calls, answering simple questions (e.g., where is the parking), pointing patients to valuable resources, or redirecting them to a human provider. Chatbots respond to patients at any time round the clock, offer consistent responses, and can be easily retrained.
- Understanding patient behavior. Providers engage with patients through intelligent mediums that can analyze and understand patients’ behavior patterns. This helps medical staff to come up with a personalized treatment plan tailored to an individual patient’s needs. For example, AiCure developed a platform that leverages AI to predict patient behavior throughout their clinical trial journey.
If you decide on acquiring a patient engagement software solution, you will have three options: off-the-shelf, content management system (CMS)-based, or fully customized solutions. While choosing among the different options, consider the following criteria:
- Are you willing to adapt your internal processes?
- Is there a need to connect your new system with legacy equipment and applications?
- How much support do you expect from your vendor?
- How much are you able to pour in as an initial investment?
- What is your current practice size, and are you planning to expand?
- Do you intend to offer new services?
- How much time can you dedicate to research, development, deployment, customization?
- Do you need full ownership of this product?
Now let us weigh in on the advantages and downsides of different types of patient engagement solutions and assess their costs.
There are a plethora of patient engagement solutions readily available for the healthcare sector. Hospitals can choose from a wide array of features and pricing models. Some patient engagement solution providers offer predefined types of subscriptions, while other companies give clients the liberty to select the features they want. Every patient engagement platform has its primary focus. Some are specialized in appointment scheduling, some on EHR integration, and some on e-prescriptions. The monthly subscription can vary from $12/month for a basic feature to $350/month and beyond for more comprehensive solutions. And of course, there are additional customization, support, and licensing costs to consider. The table below presents some examples of available patient engagement solutions at different price ranges.