Patient Engagement in a Pandemic

It's an understatement to say this pandemic has changed the way goods and services are delivered across different sectors, and without a doubt, the experience of getting medical care has also fundamentally changed. Over the past few months, what has emerged is a reimagining of how care is delivered and an understanding of the importance of ongoing patient engagement.

In any important relationship, true collaboration and partnership are often a recipe for success. This is especially true when it comes to patients and their relationship with their healthcare providers. During this global pandemic, being connected and engaged with one’s doctor has been critical--not only in relation to COVID-19 but for pre-existing and new health issues as well.

When talking about patient engagement, it’s important to ask what patient engagement really entails. While it has many definitions, it’s widely accepted that patient engagement happens when providers and patients are working together to improve health. What does that mean in practice? It means meeting patients where they are, partnering with patients and their caregivers, and using their shared experiences and knowledge to build a trusting relationship that facilitates better health.

Technology has played a key role in opening avenues of communication and engagement between providers and patients. Despite not physically seeing their patients, providers are using secure messaging and video appointments to ensure patients’ concerns are heard and managed. Patients, on the other side, have felt comforted, reassured, and confident that they still have access to their providers despite the limitations created by lockdowns. This pandemic has become the great equalizer, building trust and empathy on both sides, and providers and patients have been able to share lived experiences of dealing with COVID-19.

It's no secret that COVID-19 will dramatically alter our perceptions of safety and public health in the near- and long-term future. Ongoing patient engagement will be critical to ensure that providers and patients continue to stay connected and communicating. While some patients may look forward to seeing their doctor in person again, others may find they’d prefer to continue seeing their doctor virtually in the “new normal.” We know that clinics that offer secure messaging can experience more touch points, more information being shared, and ultimately, more meaningful interactions that will improve the patient's health. We also know that video visits can expand the scope of potential visits to include symptom-checking, such as seeing a rash to assess a skin condition.

Technology will play a key role in not only allowing access to care, but in containing the pandemic by minimizing the number of patients physically in the clinic. And by affording such options and channeling digital health tools, patients will also feel empowered to choose what's right for them and communicate and coordinate better with their providers.

What ultimately comes out of this? Patients who actively participate and feel they have a trusted partnership with their provider, who will take a more proactive role in managing their healthcare. Not only will they schedule more regular appointments with their providers, but they can also monitor their health and inform providers about what’s going on and when they need specific attention. Providers, in turn, can use this information to make better informed diagnoses or treatment plans. When true collaboration and partnership exists, evidence points to patients being more likely to stick to a treatment plan and follow through.

We believe improving health starts with relationships. Patients want to know they have a provider they can trust to work in partnership with them to manage their health--regardless of what the world is dealing with. That’s why we’re embarking on a mission to ensure that both providers and patients have the right tools to facilitate care with each other. Healthcare will always be about collaboration, and with providers and patients working together, care given and care received can reach the next stage.