Among the changes brought by the Affordable Care Act, health care providers are now focusing on the direct tie between patient satisfaction and Medicare reimbursement. However, in the midst of promising results from the most recent Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, it has become clear that some aspects of patient care can still be improved — especially when it comes to long-term patient outcomes.

While patient satisfaction is arguably a critical metric in determining success — especially during the care experience — health care is one of the few fields for which the goal is to prevent repeat customers. To move beyond perception and achieve better health outcomes, health care organizations should shift their focus from patient satisfaction to patient engagement. Long-term success requires organizations to ensure that patients — especially those with chronic conditions — receive adequate information about their diagnosis and medications and that they adhere to their care regimens over the long term.

Powerful New Technologies

With increasingly powerful digital technologies, health care systems now have the means to deliver meaningful patient engagement. In a recent blog post, I focused on the top new technologies and platforms that are poised to transform the health care field. By incorporating wearables and sensors, remote patient monitoring, caregiver collaboration tools and so forth into the model of patient care, health systems can deliver a more meaningful experience to patients, dramatically increasing patient involvement.

For instance, diabetes is a pervasive chronic condition in which this higher level of digitally driven engagement is becoming readily apparent. A major life sciences organization has successfully launched an unbranded site that engages patients through a variety of services — a customized food plan, activity planning, personalized tracking and access to a digital coach. Driven by the usefulness of these integrated tools, the level of sustained patient engagement has exceeded expectations, allowing the organization to fund ongoing improvements and support for the program.

Four Steps to Achieve Engagement with Technology

For hospitals and health systems to begin the transformation from patient satisfaction to patient engagement, leaders of these organizations should consider the following steps:

First, consider the patient journey. While all patient experiences are unique, patients share the common insights–focused framework of “think, feel, do.” By taking the following questions into consideration, health care leaders can assess the services and technology that they already possess or need to implement:

• How do patients think about their condition?

• How do patients feel about their condition?

• What do patients need to do?

This framework helps organizations improve health literacy, support behavior change, provide comprehensive support and deliver a more seamless experience that is in line with patients’ need to manage their diagnosis. It also helps organizations establish a human-forward mindset, ensuring that all patients have their needs addressed holistically.

Second, develop digital expertise. Once leaders have identified patient engagement needs through the “think, feel, do” framework, they should develop their expertise in digital health solutions. In other words, they should fully evaluate and understand the types of devices and technologies available to them, such as wearables, sensors, tele-health solutions and caregiver collaboration tools. By doing so, leaders will be able to appropriately select engagement technologies that match the needs and circumstances of their patients.

Third, seek simplicity and then educate. While many younger patients are comfortable with technology, much of the older population can be turned off by the mere suggestion of using a computer or a smartphone. The technology must be accessible, be easy to understand and provide clear benefits if you’re going to convince older users it’s worth the trouble.

Consider solutions that are user-friendly and come with a logical plan to bring doctors and patients up to speed on the benefits and value of the tools. Always provide step-by-step instructions on how to use each device or program. Also consider using visual storytelling to make topics easy to understand. Video, infographics and data visualization can be powerful communication tools.

Fourth, assess use and adjust as needed. Following implementation, periodically assess each solution to pinpoint levels of use and identify potential issues. In evaluating these factors, health care systems can make adjustments to further improve patient engagement as well as to scale their solution to patient needs now and into the future.

Aiding Patients in Managing Their Health

Digital health care technology is rapidly evolving. The more it is deployed, the more it allows patients to become involved in managing their conditions. This deployment also empowers health care providers to understand whether patients are adhering to their prescribed regimens. Ultimately, higher levels of engagement with recovery, wellness and prevention will lead to lasting improvements in overall health outcomes while lowering the rate of readmissions.

Chris Mycek is the chief customer officer at Cadient, a Cognizant company, in Malvern, Pa.