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Physical Therapy Patient Engagement | Pathway To Better Outcomes

Physical Therapy Patient Engagement

The shift from fee-for-service to fee-for-outcomes has been taking place for a while: in the healthcare space in general and in the physical therapy area in particular. To increase outcomes, patients need to be more invested in their plan of care. For that, we need them to be more engaged with their care program and with their therapists.

Studies have reportedly demonstrated that patient engagement leads to better treatment outcomes, and that it is a critical component for a successful treatment plan. For example, a study conducted with Minnesota-based primary care clinics showed that patients with low engagement levels cost up to 21% higher than patients who were more engaged with their care.

A healthy patient with good outcomes is clearly a win for everyone involved.

  • Positive Chain: It establishes a virtuous cycle with financial and emotional benefits for therapists and makes them feel more committed to what they are doing and to the value they are creating.
  • Happy Patients: Patient engagement also drives patient satisfaction, which is key to raising patient retention and staying competitive in a market that is looking more and more like a typical business to consumer (B2C) market.

To sum up, patient engagement offers solid benefits to patients and providers alike and needs to be vigorously pursued.

Communicating Across the Journey

When we talk of engagement, we are primarily referring to communication. But communicating with patients outside of in-person visits presents challenges and opportunities.

  • Care Gaps: Patient portals could help but their adoption has been somewhat less than adequate. That in turn could lead to gaps in the patient care journey in between appointments where patients are likely to feel unsupported, confused, and even lost about what lies in store for them.
  • Outreach Platforms: Forward thinking healthcare organizations are taking a more proactive approach to supporting the care journey through patient outreach platforms that enable them to connect with patients in a way they feel most comfortable with.
  • Multi-Channel Communication: Platforms that offer flexible, customizable communication using multiple channels email, SMS, or patient portal all provide paths to increasing patient engagement.
  • Better Experience: An engagement platform with personalized, two-way communication would lower therapist workload by delivering reminders, check-ins, and other interactive touch points to create a more cohesive patient care experience.

Diving Into Direct Communication

Now, it is all fine and dandy to talk about communication and engagement but there is a practical problem. Therapists today are really busy. Between treating patients and processing claims and billing for their services, therapists have little time for anything else. So how are they going to find the time to communicate/engage with patients?

Automation provides the answer.

  • Preset Messages: Messages could be automated and rendered based on preconfigured message templates. These pre-formatted templates would use personalization tokens for adapting message content based on intelligent rules that could be defined in the platform, for example based on which therapist is assigned to the patient in the system.
  • Frequent Communication: Messages would be sent to the patient from their therapist at predefined points throughout the therapy care journey and after completion. This would provide the patient with secure, constant access to their therapist during therapy and after getting discharged. These messages would appear to be personal and interactive messages coming from the therapist but are actually automated.
  • Reacting to Responses: It is only when the patient responds to a message does the therapist need to send a personal reply to the patient after they get notified that they have messages waiting for them.
  • Reactivation Possibilities: For example, one of these automated message templates could be reactivation messages sent to patients after their discharge. These could potentially lead the patient to return to the clinic in the future for a new problem they are experiencing. The reactivation could very likely come via a direct access without first going through their physician.

Selecting The Outreach Platform

These are several considerations to select a messaging platform that delivers results that meet intended goals. These would include:

  • Ease of Use: It should be intuitive and accessible across mobile and desktop devices and enable quick and easy enrollment via text or email.
  • EMR Integration: Through seamless EMR integration, it should offer access to patient records, save documentation time, and raise patient insight.
  • HIPAA Compliance: The platform needs to be secure and HIPAA compliant to ensure that PHI is always protected and access tightly controlled.

AI In Patient Engagement

When we talk of automation today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes up next on the agenda along with Natural Language Processing (NLP). Among other things, AI/NLP can be used for:

  • Analyzing Data: Identifying patients that are more likely to need help by scanning clinical records and even their patterns of communication.
  • Personalized Outreach: Reaching out to them through the best channel and on the most appropriate day of week/time of day to increase the likelihood of getting a response.
  • Empathetic Communication: Responding to patients in an emotionally appropriate, empathetic manner to drive higher level of engagement.

Todays technologies for digital patient to therapist communication provide new, exciting possibilities. Making full use of these technologies would likely raise plan of care completion rates via the increased engagement and commitment that the communication engenders. Patients would always welcome staying connected to their clinician, and EMR and other platforms should make that possible. The path to better outcomes increasingly lies through technology.