Patient engagement

What is patient engagement? Importance, challenges, and key trends governing 2022

Table of Contents


Patient engagement is directly proportional to good health outcomes. The more engaged patients are in self-care, the healthier they will be. Equipping patients with excellent care infrastructure and enabling them to engage in self-care poses a challenge in the current healthcare scenario. To help patients achieve the desired health outcomes, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ criteria gets thrown out of the window. The support, resources, and interventions are unique for each patient, which is why understanding patient engagement in healthcare is more crucial than ever. 

What is patient engagement? 

Patient engagement is nothing but the amalgamation of patient activation and healthcare interventions to ensure sound patient care and overall good quality of life. How understanding, willing, and competent a patient is to partake in the decisions and processes pertaining to his care is what stands at the core of patient engagement. Let’s closely look at what an engaged patient does: 

  • Self-management of illness
  • Constant involvement in diagnosis and treatment choices 
  • Active exploration of the healthcare system
  • Collaboration with caregivers
  • Engagement in activities that promote better health

Importance of patient engagement

Here are some core reasons that highlight the importance of patient engagement in healthcare: 

  1. Patients have a plethora of options to choose from and avail the preferred type of care. They can easily search for healthcare providers online based on their location, services offered, and reviews. If a patient is not engaged, he/she is highly likely to have an unsatisfactory experience and make a switch to another provider. 
  2. The advent of tools such as wearable technology and patient portals has made patient engagement easier and more cost-effective. As a result, it is important that healthcare providers and organizations offer knowledge of these technologies and any additional support that their patients need to make them more engaged. 
  3. Patients who are engaged don’t simply show up for their appointments or partake in health screenings. They would like to know about areas that hold relevance in context to their health. This is where support on the part of the healthcare providers becomes paramount. 
  4. An engaged patient is a satisfied patient. When the understanding between the patient, staff, and healthcare providers is good, there will be positive health outcomes, leaving the patient satisfied. In such cases, the patient is most likely to return to the practice or recommend it to friends and family. 

Challenges pertaining to patient engagement in healthcare

Considering the complexity of the present healthcare system, there arise a couple of challenges that patients face with respect to the acquisition and comprehension of basic health information. Here are some of the top challenges that we’d like to highlight and address: 

Challenge #1: Complex Communication 

In order to deliver effective patient care, communication needs to be crystal clear. Challenges in communication arise when the treatment plans and diagnoses do not align with the health literacy of the patient. Language is another common barrier to communication, which can hamper clinical outcomes. If the healthcare provider and the patient speak different languages, then it becomes impossible for them to discuss the treatment plan. 

Here’s how this challenge can be addressed: 

It is important for providers to prioritize health over disease. As a healthcare provider, you must ask your patients what they want. Here are some strategies that can help improve patient-provider communication:

  • Inclusion of translation services 
  • Telehealth technology encompassing multiple language options
  • Communication through text messages 
  • Emphasis on non-verbal communication
  • Training sessions to improve interpersonal communication

Challenge #2: Health Literacy

Fun fact: Nearly 89 million Americans possess insufficient health literacy skills, which further results in poor health outcomes. A patient who is active knows his health condition, takes the necessary steps to improve his health, and also has access to the required resources. On the other hand, a patient who isn’t engaged, who has no access to the resources, and doesn’t understand the importance of self-care; will definitely report poor health outcomes. 

Here’s how this challenge can be addressed: 

Healthcare providers need to offer their patients the requisite care and education to help them meet their level of health literacy. Here’s how they can improve the same: 

  • Offering educational content in the form of graphics, brochures, videos, demonstrations, and checklists
  • Familiarising patients with symptom trends
  • Inclusion of caregivers and family members 
  • Sharing appointment notes
  • Correcting misinformation  

Challenge #3: Patient trust

It is important for patients to trust their healthcare providers, as the absence of trust will not help them achieve the desired health outcomes. Factors that lead to a lack of trust can be limited cultural competency on the part of the healthcare provider. 

Here’s how this challenge can be addressed:

The provider needs to value cultures and deliver excellent care that also aligns ideally with the linguistic, cultural, and social needs of the patients. Here’s how providers can establish trust: 

  • Allow patient engagement through patient portals
  • Reflect transparency while discussing treatment and diagnosis
  • Train staff to be unbiased 
  • Empathize with patients 
  • Motivate behavioral change by creating a non-judgmental environment 

Challenge #4: Social Health Determinants 

The availability of a sound social network, a robust medical management plan, and access to nutritious food are the top three factors that can lead to excellent health outcomes. However, this sadly isn’t the case with many patients as their surrounding environment often gets in the way. For example, a patient with limited access to healthy food might not be able to take medications on a full stomach. Here’s how this challenge can be addressed: 

The healthcare providers need to understand the lived environment of the patient and provide customized care as per the needs of the patient. Here’s how they can address the social determinants: 

  • Help patients with affordable housing options
  • Offer assistance in medical transportation
  • Prescribe food alternatives that are affordable and easily accessible 
  • Help patients deal with social isolation 

Key trends influencing patient engagement 

Undoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic has altered the entire healthcare ecosystem, changing the way patients receive care and how healthcare providers interact with their patients. In order to avoid infection from the virus, the patients have become more inclined toward their health, which has only reflected upon the rising importance of patient engagement. Here are the key trends that have been influencing patient engagement:

  1. Rising focus on health education: Patients have now become more interested in their health and want to be upfront with every bit of information about their health. Owing to this increasing inclination, it is important for healthcare providers to keep their patients engaged by equipping them with the necessary information about their health, including their conditions, diagnosis, and medical treatment plans. 
  2. Digitization of health: With technology taking the center stage, people can easily access everything on-demand, not just with respect to entertainment but also health-related. AI, Telemedicine, chatbots, wearables, and IoT are some of the common examples that have been happily accepted by people around the world. 
  3. Burgeoning importance of patient experience:  With the healthcare industry becoming more consumer-centric, patients are being presented with personalised services that meet their needs. Good patient experience means better revenue and growth opportunities for the healthcare providers; hence the rising importance. 
  4. Active adoption of self-care: Patients have now taken control of the steering wheel of their health, actively engaging in self-symptom management. Owing to this trend, healthcare organisations are becoming more proactive towards delivering excellent care, with an aim to increase patient loyalty. 

Digital patient engagement 

The increasing digitization of the healthcare industry, organizations need to focus on engaging their patients by offering them a smooth digital health journey. Thanks to the pandemic, there has been an acceleration in the adoption of digital health tools and interactions have become more virtual. These factors have made it essential to improve patient engagement through the following strategies: 

  • Simplifying patient communication for better engagement (text messaging)
  • Understanding the timing of communication to derive high patient engagement rates
  • Optimizing content; keeping messages short and crisp, easily comprehendible by the patient
  • Sending encouraging messages to patients to minimize patient anxiety and build trust 
  • Using data to analyze patient behaviour and outreach 


All in all, patient engagement stands as the locus for healthcare professionals and patients to interact and give/receive care. Though patient engagement has its own benefits and challenges, the crux is that it is something that cannot be ignored. f you are a healthcare professional looking forward to building patient trust, acquiring more patients, and growing your practice, then patient engagement is something that should be a part of your growth strategies. Implement strong patient engagement strategies in your practice and witness a surge in revenue. 

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