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How to Track the Factors That Influence Patient Engagement

PCP. EHR. QI. PHR. ALOS. DOS. These are only a handful of the bountiful number of acronyms used in the healthcare industry. If you know what each of these stands for, you probably work in this field. Or, you’re just very good at guessing! 

Either way, we’re going to throw another acronym at you: KPI. Otherwise known as key performance indicators, KPIs are used in many industries, not only healthcare. Take retail, for example. KPIs utilized in this industry include average transaction value, foot traffic and sales per square foot. 

When used correctly, KPIs enable physician practices and other provider organizations to analyze real-time data to provide insight into their clinical, operational and financial performance. They help eliminate root causes for poor performance, highlight and compare key quality improvement and value metrics, promote proactive decision-making and prioritize resources. 

What do KPIs have to do with patient engagement, though? Plenty, especially in this new(ish) age of healthcare consumerism

Most patients prefer to communicate with their doctor(s) in ways that are quick and convenient, and providers must have resources that allow them to do that. However, it’s important that provider organizations regularly evaluate those resources to see how well — or poorly — they’re working. Hence, the use of KPIs to track patient engagement. 

Proof of the Importance of Patient Engagement

Before we get into the specific KPIs you should use to track patient engagement, let’s dive into some of the benefits of it. Research has linked higher levels of patient engagement to:

  • Greater use of preventive care
  • Lower overall predicted health care costs
  • Less delay in seeking care
  • More positive ratings of relationships with providers
  • Greater awareness of treatment guidelines
  • Lower use of hospital and emergency care and lower hospital readmission rates
  • Less smoking and obesity
  • Better clinical indicators 

As if those benefits aren’t enough proof, more research shows that patient engagement is related to improved health-related outcomes. What happens when patients fail to engage with the professionals they trust with their medical care? They experience healthcare costs 21 percent higher than their engaged counterparts and are more likely to have gaps in care. 

Also essential for understanding how and why to track patient engagement is knowing the primary factors that affect it. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists the top patient engagement factors as:

  • Patients (demographic characteristics, health literacy)
  • Health conditions (illness severity)
  • Healthcare professionals (knowledge and attitudes)
  • Tasks (whether a required patient safety behavior challenges clinicians’ clinical abilities)
  • Healthcare setting (primary or secondary care) 

Key Patient Engagement KPIs

KPIs are not one-size-fits-all. What works for one provider organization might not work for another. A medical group serving residents of an urban area may not have the same operational and financial priorities as a solo practice in a rural community. Keep in mind, though, that the KPIs we’re recommending are useful for most any provider organization, no matter the size or location. 

Patient Portal Use 

Portals are sort of like a one-stop shopping resource for patients – except that they offer a service, not a product. Patients can use this technology tool to easily book an appointment, access their records and test results, send their physician a message, locate educational materials and more. 

Once again, there is proven research to back up the benefits. Patient portal utilization has been linked to positive outcomes in patient engagement and satisfaction and meaningful cost and quality outcomes. It’s also associated with significant decreases in office visits and better adherence to treatment. Most healthcare experts agree that connecting with patients through a portal improves patient satisfaction, which translates into savings and improved care delivery. 

Tracking patient portal use doesn’t require a complex equation. It basically consists of measuring weekly or monthly the number of patients who have joined the portal, how times a patient has logged in, time on site per session and the number of patients scheduling appointments through it. You also can track which channels you use to recruit patients for portal use perform the best and promote them more proactively. 

An important note about patient portals: Individuals encouraged by their healthcare provider to use their patient portal access and use it at higher rates compared to those not encouraged. Among the 60 percent or so of patients offered access to a portal, 95 percent use one, and nearly half do so by using their mobile device. 

Cancellation Rate 

This might seem like the wrong KPI to use for measuring patient engagement, but it allows provider organizations to address any issues causing it and address them appropriately. A high cancellation rate likely means a patient doesn’t have a favorable relationship with their provider or has barriers in accessing care. These are fixable issues. 

The main problem with patient appointment cancellations is that they typically lead to longer wait times for other patients. They affect providers by leading to a loss of anticipated revenue, adding stress on practice staff and even reducing clinical effectiveness. 

Calculating your cancellation rate can be achieved by taking your total number of cancellations and dividing it by your practice’s total number of appointments. Multiply the result by 100, and you have your answer. 

The main reason patients cancel a healthcare appointment is simply that they forgot. This is the perfect opportunity for your practice to employ automated appointment reminders, which also reduce the number of administrative tasks for which your staff is responsible. 

Industry Standards 

Here we go again with the acronyms. There are multiple methods healthcare agencies recommend for tracking patient engagement, including PROMs, PAMs and CAHPSs. All three of these can also be used to measure patient satisfaction, which is correlated with patient engagement. 

PROMs (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measures): The National Quality Forum (NQF) defines PROMs as any report of the status of a patient’s health condition that comes directly from the patient, without interpretation of the patient’s response by a clinician or anyone else. 

PAMs (Patient Activation Measures): These measures consist of a 100-point, quantifiable scale and assess the knowledge, skills and confidence of patients to manage their health. 

CAHPS (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems): Developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), CAHPS surveys ask patients to report on their experiences with a range of healthcare services at multiple levels of the delivery system. 

Benefits of a Patient Engagement Platform

Whichever patient engagement KPIs you choose to utilize, track them on a regular basis, and make adjustments as necessary. The result is better insight into your practice operations based on data-driven decision-making, which in turn can lead to increased revenue, improved quality of care, more transparency and lower costs. 

If you’re looking to improve patient engagement in your provider organization, consider Epion’s powerful cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant platform. Along with solutions designed to deliver measurable value and improve your ability to deliver quality care to patients, it automates and integrates patient access to alleviate administrative bottlenecks. Let us help you deliver a more consistent, tailored and delightful patient experience across all touchpoints – schedule a meeting with us today!