Understanding Patient Needs to Improve Engagement and Satisfaction

As telemedicine and other technologies take root in the healthcare industry, healthcare providers (HCPs) need to adopt effective support strategies to improve patients' quality of care. The modern patient has access to a wealth of healthcare information at his fingertips. Over 90% of patients use reviews during their healthcare provider selection process. This access can be both empowering and overwhelming.

For instance, patients may not be able to select the right provider if their online reviews do not accurately portray their actual patient satisfaction level. Thus, it becomes essential for the providers to align their reviews with the quality of care they provide.

Similarly, patients that access information from unreliable medical publications can question the role of specific treatment procedures. This can make them hesitate to seek medical attention. As a result, they may experience deteriorating health from preventable and curable conditions.

Healthcare providers need to be at the frontline of combating patients' medical miseducation by drilling down their concerns and addressing them effectively. Ultimately, HCPs should strive to be the go-to resources for health matters in their domains.

HCPs need to get more involved in pre- and post-treatment cycles. From educating patients on various conditions to post-treatment follows and getting their feedback about their visits, HCPs can make a real difference in their patients’ journeys.

A one-size-fits-all approach may not be practical for all patients, especially for those with chronic illnesses. Therefore, general advice should only be offered to top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) patients, who should be driven further down the funnel through call-to-action messages such as callback requests and live online consultations.

The pre-treatment engagement program should involve helping patients understand how to navigate healthcare services, why treatment is needed, the treatment options available, and post-treatment care. Patients can be engaged online, via phone, or through email, and tracked for follow-ups and appointments.

Understanding Patient Needs

Trust, education, and culture are three of the most important themes that guide patients’ health beliefs and values. Apart from these, discipline, comprehensive treatment, and bidirectional communication are also important.

Educating patients is the most impactful way of fostering understanding between them and HCPs.Healthcare providers and patients need to listen and communicate with each other to improve engagement and satisfaction. Communication can help to improve future decision making and the quality of care that patients receive.

There are various reasons why understanding patients is critical for HCPs. For example, a patient’s beliefs about health (e.g., cause of an illness, whether a disease can be controlled, and the value of different treatments) can determine his lifestyle choices, use of healthcare services, and medication adherence.

Understanding a patient’s health beliefs can also help HCPs identify information gaps between their understanding of a particular health situation and what the patient understands. With this information, HCPs can come up with treatment regimens that are more aligned with the patient’s expectations and needs.

There is higher patient satisfaction, commitment to treatment, and the perceived outcome of care when HCPs and patients have a shared understanding of the latter’s role in the treatment plan.

Word Cloud Analysis to Understand Patients’ Needs

Using word clouds can help HCPs understand how patients feel and what they need. Various studies suggest word clouds work. For example, a study published in BMJ Supportive and Palliative care shows that word clouds helped to develop engagement between patients and family

To better understand how to word cloud can help the providers understand their patients’ needs, we analyzed patient reviews and comments, by specialty, which we extracted from RepuGen- online reputation management software. The table below shows the most frequently used words by patients during their in-office and telemedicine visits.

Specialty # of Comments Analyzed Most Frequently Used Words
Primary Care 8600 Care, Listens, Caring, Always
Urgent Care 660 Care, Professional, Friendly, Virtual
Family Practice 43 Care, Pain, Personal, Prescription
Gynecology 66 Care, Listens, Questions, Easy
OBGYN 261 Care, Professional, Staff
Sports Medicine 71 Care, Explain, Caring, Listens,
Podiatrics 204 Friendly, Explained, Listened

Care is the most frequently used word across almost all specialties. Listens, Caring, and Friendly the other commonly used words. These words show that patients are happy with their providers.

Similarly, HCPs can analyze the word cloud to uncover the patients’ problems that they can address to improve patient engagement and satisfaction.

What Can Healthcare ProvidersImprove Patient Engagement and Satisfaction?

Healthcare providers need to understand patient concerns and needs at every step of the journey. The journey and key milestones are different for every patient and disease. This is why personalized treatment is critical for patients with chronic diseases.

Identify Treatment Milestones

The treatment milestones should be clearly defined from the onset to ensure that both the patient and HCP understand what is expected of them.

Defining key milestones can help patients to adhere to treatment programs from until the end. For HCPs, milestones can help them to gauge the effectiveness of their treatment methods as well as personalized programs.

The role of all the parties involved in the dissemination and intake of the treatment should be defined from the onset of the program.

Communication Channels

HCPs also need to consider the communication channels to use with their patients. Here, demographics come into play.

Patients prefer different channels of communication, depending on their demographics. Some of the channels healthcare providers should consider include live chat options, chat rooms, educational websites, videos, emails, face-to-face interactions, written content, surveys, and text messages.

Giving patients a wide range of options for receiving information is critical to the success of any treatment program.

Data Aggregation and Security

While patient data can be gathered from multiple places, it is important for it to be aggregated at a central database. Aggregating data can help HCPs to have a clear overview of a patient’s medical and treatment history.

Aggregate patient data can be analyzed to deliver maximum value to clinicians or healthcare service providers in terms of understanding what works and the engagement levels realized for various programs.

This data should be kept safe and according to industry regulatory requirements such as HIPPA.

Use Technology Tools

Health technology tools should be used to analyze global patient support programs by region or country to identify patterns that can be analyzed to improve patient engagement and satisfaction. Having commonality in the data points collected can help to understand the outcome of various patient engagement programs implemented by different HCPs.

Conclusion

Understanding a patient’s beliefs is an important aspect of compassion. Knowing the patient's expectations helps improve the perception of receiving more effective communication and quality care.

When designing patient experiences, healthcare marketers need to understand the needs of patients from their perspective. These needs can be uncovered through qualitative and quantitative methods, such as the use of word clouds.

For existing patient programs, data analytics should be leveraged to identify drop-off points. Analytics can help to uncover opportunities for engaging with patients as well as their pain points along the journey.

Patient Experience

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Ajay Prasad

Ajay Prasad is the founder and CEO of RepuGen, a leading healthcare reputation management solution that helps practices grow through regular review generation, patient recovery, and retention. Ajay believes that providing clients with the opportunity to take control of their online reputation will improve patient experience and the overall success of the healthcare business. See how RepuGen can help you.