We are hearing the term patient engagement a lot these days. It is the subject of many blogs, articles and conferences. But what is it? That depends on who is defining it. From a drug makers perspective patient engagement is getting prospective drug users to know about your disease category, drug and keeping them persistent and compliant once taking it. From a provider perspective, it means the process of dealing with patients from appointment setting, office visit, post visit follow up, and handling patient questions and concerns.
From the patient perspective it means how do providers and drug companies deal with them as customers. Patient engagement has become a popular term lately. It has emerged out of the changing dynamics of patient care. The patient today is paying more of the bill through higher co-pays and deductibles. They are much more sensitive to what things cost and their share of it.
That means they no longer will be blindly doing whatever the doctor tells them to do in terms of tests, prescriptions, and procedures. Physicians are ill-prepared to engage patients. The busy provider is now being peppered with cost and coverage questions. They also are being asked to justify what services they perform on a cost/benefit basis. These busier than ever doctors are now being asked to be cost experts. That is very difficult with the opaque nature of what services cost.
We are seeing a shift continue in the growth of patient knowledge. Combined with that patients being asked to pay more and we get a patient who demands to be consulted on what is done for them and at what cost. Patient engagement also means more digital medicine, as busy patients and doctors are going to rely more on remote exams, monitoring, e-consultations, and electronic health records.
A more engaged patient is more likely to be a healthier patient. Having access to more information, through face to face and digital platforms, will help patients understand what care actually makes a difference in terms of outcomes. Patient engagement means more business opportunities for health media and application providers. The physician’s office and retail pharmacies will become central in the effort to engage patients through existing and new media applications.
Clearly, engaging patients means providers need to rethink how to delight consumers through the entire process of care. I am sure we are at the low end of the customer delight scale. Successful providers will stress patient engagement and satisfaction. Drug companies are part of that process. I am sure most consumers are not yet delighted or engaged very well by drug makers. Satisfaction is a function of many things. Drug price, efficacy, dose convenience, side effects, follow up services, clarity of message, ease of contacting, and dealing with problems are all factors in engaging and satisfying patients.
I expect patient engagement will be the new hot topic across the provider world. There is absolutely no reason that health care cannot rise to levels of customer satisfaction of other industries. We have a long way to go but the winners will be those that recognize patient demands and satisfy new expectations.