For many healthcare providers, getting a patient in the door is the primary focus given traditional fee-for-service models. This is particularly true for Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers (FQHCs) whose patients face unique barriers when it comes to making appointments. However, with extensive emphasis being placed on appointment reminders, many organizations are forgetting other critical aspects of patient engagement which can improve the quality of care, increase patient satisfaction, and open revenue opportunities tied to value-based care. A truly effective patient-centered care strategy requires patient engagement that goes beyond the appointment reminder and includes significant patient interaction between visits.
Education is Key
According to a recent Medscape study, U.S. physicians spend an average of 13-20 minutes with each patient. For patients in underserved communities who face significant health disparities, those 13-20 minutes are typically their only chance to understand diagnoses, ask questions, and make treatment decisions face-to-face. Add language barriers and limited health literacy into the mix, and it becomes evident why underserved patients often don’t have the tools they need to maintain their health outside of the appointment.
By incorporating education programs into their patient engagement strategy, providers can help patients take control of their health on a day-to-day basis. Tailored programs for groups who suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol or depression can educate patients on strategies for healthy eating, medication adherence, lifestyle choices and more. Education can also be used to change behaviors that might be detrimental to a patient’s health such as smoking or overeating.
Communication Should be Tailored
Every patient is different, so there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to patient interaction. The most successful patient engagement strategies see patients for the people that they are and tailor messaging to meet their specific needs. Through targeted patient communications that take into consideration the language and education levels of the patient, providers can help patients foster more independent health management skills and encourage follow-up appointments when needed. Patients should be empowered to set and monitor goals and report progress directly to their provider, who can flag at-risk patients or adjust the course of treatment. By connecting directly with patients through tailored text messages, many FQHCs and clinics have seen notable increases in satisfaction, improved adherence, and better outcomes among underserved populations [link to Outcomes page on CM site].
Focus on Prevention
The occasional doctor visit only goes so far to keep patients healthy. In many situations, people don’t contact their health provider until long after symptoms have manifested, which can lead to dangerous complications or a poor prognosis. This is especially true for underserved patients, where preventive health often gets pushed aside for a variety of reasons, from long work hours to transportation constraints to a lack of understanding of the importance of these appointments.
Today, healthcare centers that are serious about patient engagement and improving outcomes
are leveraging technology to remind patients to get vaccinated or make a cancer screening appointment. With a personalized approach, FQHCs, free clinics, and community health plans are encouraging healthy choices, while simultaneously cutting down on ER visits and paving the way to better outcomes.
While appointment reminders are an important part of any patient engagement strategy, it is critical to understand that they are part of a larger equation. FQHCs who are looking to improve their patient engagement should consider technologies that equip them to fill gaps in care, continually educate their patients, and supply personable outreach to their underserved populations.
To learn more about how CareMessage is utilizing technology to impact population health disparities and improve health literacy in underserved communities, visit our Outcomes page or use the form below to connect with the CareMessage team.