Practice managers often discuss the significance of patient engagement, loyalty, and retention as key components of their strategies. These efforts might involve providing patients with access to a patient portal, enhancing the practice's website, or implementing various technologies for more convenient care. However, the critical question is: Are these initiatives being effectively measured and assessed?
Many providers fall short in measuring patient engagement. One of the primary reasons for this shortcoming is the multitude of competing demands that practice managers face. While they may implement patient engagement initiatives, they often become entangled in the daily operations of running a busy practice, focusing more on revenue-generating tasks than on evaluating the effectiveness of their engagement efforts.
Engaged and satisfied patients are more likely to return for follow-up visits, adhere to preventive care, and consult their primary providers when they are unwell. Furthermore, engaged patients tend to follow physicians' recommendations, resulting in improved health outcomes. They are also more inclined to refer other patients to the practice and provide valuable feedback, all of which can positively impact the bottom line.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Measuring Patient Engagement
For practices seeking to measure patient engagement effectively, Jan Oldenburg recommends focusing on five key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide insights into engagement levels within the practice:
Portal Enrollment and Usage
Patient portals serve as a digital front door for practices. They offer a range of convenient features such as self-scheduling options, symptom checkers, physician messaging, virtual visits, and access to lab results and online bill payment. Patients today expect their healthcare experiences to be as convenient and digital as other aspects of their lives, like banking and shopping. Practices should ensure that their portals are designed to enhance patient convenience and actively promote this as a compelling reason for patients to sign up.
The Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) revealed a 50% increase in patient portal usage nationwide from 2020 to 2022. However, if portal usage remains stagnant at your site, it may indicate a need to educate patients about the portal's functionalities or update its capabilities to better meet patient needs. Additionally, it's essential to ensure that the portal's features are convenient not only for patients but also for staff and physicians.
A practice's website is another valuable tool for measuring and enhancing patient engagement. It should provide up-to-date, accurate, and comprehensive information about the practice's services, billing processes, providers, and any new developments or offerings. Analyzing website traffic can provide insights into the effectiveness of your online presence. Questions to consider include: How many monthly visitors does your website receive? How long do they stay? What information are they seeking? Are these numbers increasing or decreasing? Having answers to these questions helps improve the impression you make on potential and existing patients.
Post-visit patient engagement is reflected in the handling of unpaid balances. Patients today expect a seamless billing and payment process, emphasizing the importance of price transparency, upfront collection, accurate billing, clear and concise statements, and online bill payment. The quality of the billing and financial experience significantly impacts a patient's likelihood of returning to the practice and recommending it to others. By surveying patients about both their billing and care experiences, practices can identify areas for improvement and address grievances related to financial aspects of care.
Visit Cancellation Rates
The patient cancellation rate is a metric worth examining in conjunction with other data. An increasing cancellation rate may be linked to extended appointment wait times. Patients might cancel appointments because they find alternative providers who can accommodate them more quickly. In such cases, practices should consider hiring more providers or evaluating workflow efficiency to enhance patient access. Online scheduling can also reduce cancellation rates while improving patient engagement by allowing patients to choose appointment times that suit their schedules and facilitating convenient rescheduling through the patient portal.
Formal Complaints and Grievances
Monitoring and addressing formal complaints and grievances is crucial for practice management. However, it is equally important to pay attention to informal complaints, particularly those voiced on social media platforms. Social media should not only be used as a broadcasting tool but also as a listening device to understand patient concerns and experiences. Addressing grievances promptly demonstrates the practice's commitment to patient satisfaction and engagement.
Additional Strategies for Assessing Patient Engagement
While measuring KPIs is an essential aspect of assessing patient engagement, there are additional strategies to gain a deeper understanding of patient engagement within your practice:
Survey Patients Promptly
Conduct patient experience surveys as soon as possible after their appointments to capture fresh insights. Patients appreciate surveys while the experience is still vivid in their minds, allowing for more accurate feedback.
Test Various Survey Methods
Experiment with different survey methods, including automated text messages, email surveys, and postcard surveys provided to patients during checkout. Determine which method yields the highest response rate and most valuable feedback.
Ask the Right Questions
Include questions that assess the ease of making appointments, the quality of care provided, adherence to safety protocols, suggestions for enhanced convenience, and any other feedback patients may want to share. Convenience is a key consideration