Seldom do people receive as much important information as quickly as they do during doctor’s visits and hospital stays. Stressful settings, unfamiliar terms, too-brief conversations, and the heightened emotions surrounding health issues combine to make it difficult for patients to comprehend and recall what they’re told.
Nearly two in three Americans are not extremely confident in their understanding of the health information they discuss with their doctor, according to a 2021 study from the American Health Information Management Association Foundation. The survey also found that 24% of patients don’t understand all the information their doctor provides and 31% won’t even remember it immediately following an appointment. Fifteen percent of respondents report sometimes feeling more confused about their health than they did before the visit.
The numbers are worse for hospital stays. Only 50% to 60% of patients remember key information from recent inpatient stays, including such vital information as diagnosis and changes in medication, according to a recent study in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.
It’s common for patients to have questions after an appointment or hospital stay. These can range from a simple follow-up query to questions about medication or new symptoms. While both providers and patients desire easy two-way communication, it’s the responsibility of the provider to make it possible and to encourage patients to engage with their care.
The right technology can improve the patient’s ability to retain information, thus enhancing their health outcomes and overall satisfaction with their care.
Make information accessible and understandable with patient portals
A patient portal is an online tool that offers patients 24/7 access to their health information from any digital device. It provides detailed summaries of office visits, hospital stays, medication lists, and lab results. It allows patients to review the details of their visits at their convenience, rather than having to remember all the information provided during the actual visit.
More advanced patient portals often provide resources such as patient education materials related to a patient’s diagnoses and procedures. This allows for more in-depth learning and understanding at the patient’s own pace. Having this information readily available for reference not only strengthens information retention but also promotes patient autonomy and engagement in their care.
Advanced patient portals will also provide patients with succinct post-visit instruction summaries following an in-patient or ambulatory encounter. This guides patients in what they should do when they are home and on their own, providing an often much-needed reminder of what they were told during their visit. In addition, if they have any questions, they can send a secure portal message to their provider.
Automate delivery of post-visit instructions to patients
In addition to the information provided within a patient portal, healthcare providers can implement patient engagement solutions that identify patients by their diagnosis or procedure and automatically send them pertinent information. This information, delivered according to patient preference, might include instructions for post-operative care, details about managing their condition, or reminders about follow-up appointments.
This targeted, personalized information ensures patients receive what is relevant to their care. The automated aspect reduces the chance of omission or error and allows information to be provided in a timely manner, further reinforcing what was communicated during the visit and enhancing the patient’s understanding and recall.
Provide convenient messaging options for patients
Dynamic patient communication is a necessity for today’s healthcare consumers. Providing patients with the ability to opt-in for text messaging with their providers is a must for modern provider organizations. Giving the patient options like opt-in texting or secure two-way messaging provides patients and healthcare providers with an easy, secure, and confidential way to communicate. These platforms enable patients to ask questions about their care or treatment outside the confines of a medical appointment, making them more likely to clarify any doubts or misunderstandings.
Similarly, healthcare providers can use these platforms to send messages, reminders, or additional information directly to the patient. This continuous exchange of information promotes patient education, engagement, and retention.
Send automated surveys to check patient understanding
Automated surveys and patient-reported outcomes after a medical visit or hospital stay can be useful tools to identify gaps in a patient’s understanding. They can also provide healthcare providers with real-time feedback about a patient’s comprehension of their care or treatment plan.
Surveys with targeted questions about care instructions, medication schedules, or follow-up visits can reveal areas where the patient may need more explanation or support. They also offer the patient another opportunity to think about their care and possibly recognize questions they hadn’t thought of during the appointment.
Automate care management and population health
Advanced patient engagement platforms can enhance manual care management and population health efforts. Patient populations can be established across provider organizations that are directly correlated with value-based care efforts. Care management campaigns can leverage automation to activate or engage patients to take specific actions that will yield a positive health outcome. These campaigns can automate efforts to educate patients about their condition, assist them in filling prescriptions/encourage adherence, provide streamlined processes for scheduling interval care, and keep patients and providers in sync between visits.
Technology plays an integral role in supporting patient information retention and engagement. Using the strategies outlined above, healthcare providers can create a more patient-centered, interactive, and efficient healthcare model that facilitates patients’ understanding, involvement, and satisfaction in their care process.
This article was originally published on HIT Consultant on January 1, 2024. You can view the article here.