Every healthcare facility has a patient engagement strategy, no doubt filled with objectives for greater patient activation, education and outreach.
Patient engagement strategies aim to improve the quality of care and the efficiency of health organisations by including patients in decision-making and increasing their understanding of their condition and its required care, both during and after hospital stays.
As such, patient engagement strategies are intrinsically linked to many other hospital initiatives from the provision of food and drink to ICT, recruitment and equality policies.
However, such strategies need to be revised so they can remain relevant post-pandemic.
Now, as providers tackle longer waiting lists, greater levels of isolation and communication concerns in the wake of Coronavirus, there are more targeted areas that need to be added to overarching engagement strategies for them to feel effective in the current climate.
1. Uninterrupted Access to Branded WiFi on Any Personal or Hospital-Owned Device
As more people are waiting for treatment and are experiencing record-breaking wait times when they’re called for treatment, the accessibility of WiFi on personal devices has never been more important to provide a handy distraction and a boredom buster in trying situations.
It’s not enough for WiFi to be available only on hospital-owned devices. Patients now need to be able to access a cohesive, branded WiFi experience on any device of their choice, being welcomed digitally first to diffuse the blow of busy wards and waiting rooms while providing an outlet for education, entertainment and support.
2. Technology to Support Video Calls and Interaction with the Outside World
As it stands, hospital visiting is limited to one close family contact who is required to wear a face covering for the duration of their stay. While these restrictions might change for patients with particular needs or those in a critical condition, the majority of patients are forced to get used to a more solitary hospital stay.
As such, patient engagement strategies need to encompass other forms of interaction so that patients feel less alone when isolated in their ward. Video calling and instant messaging are now essential parts of the patient experience and are subsequently adopted by everyone, even those who aren’t tech-savvy.
Easy-to-use communication methods need to be employed that allow all patients to independently contact loved ones when they can’t be united in person.
3. Enhanced Patient Entertainment Offers that Mirror the At Home Experience
Generally, people are ten times more likely to battle mental health during Coronavirus, a statistic that is only worsened in healthcare environments. Longer, lonelier hospital experiences mean patients expect more from hospital entertainment, needing more than a few scattered magazines and basic television channels to keep them company.
This, in partnership with the rapid development of entertainment offerings in the home, mean on-demand TV, blockbuster films and digital games are all recognised as integral parts of a modern hospital entertainment system.
What’s more, entertainment cost and its accessibility are also judged just as harshly as its quality. Entertainment needs to be widely available at little or no cost and be linked to all devices for the most comfortable viewing experience. Just like Netflix, Amazon or any other popular streaming service, hospital entertainment should sync to an individual's account, allowing them to switch from phone to tablet at any time to continue watching and interacting with its interface.
4. Visual Cues to Assist Doctor-Patient Consultations and Independent Education
A crux of Coronavirus is poor patient understanding that arises from the communication barriers of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Although PPE is worn to protect patients and everyone else in the healthcare environment, it sometimes creates difficulties when communicating complex concepts, frustrating both patients and health professionals in the process.
Patients often find it hard to hear information and process its meaning through muffled sound and without the benefit of lip reading. Out of these patients, those with intellectual or development disabilities are thought to suffer the most, as well as patients experiencing anxiety that are in need of nonverbal cues.
Healthcare staff need to be able to rely on visual cues such as graphs, presentations and videos to aid any consultation that feels compromised due to PPE or heightened because of the current climate.
5. Specific Support Designed with the Most Vulnerable Patients in Mind
While patient engagement strategies often include end of life and dementia plans within them, these schemes will now need to satisfy their audiences even further, taking the adjusted healthcare landscape into account.
Healthcare facilities are advised to design specific support for vulnerable individuals to provide an added layer of comfort and support throughout their stay. For example, the SPARK Media® platform offers support services aimed at those dealing with dementia.
6. A Quick, Convenient Space for Patients to Provide Feedback
More than ever, patients need to sound out how they feel, talk about their experience and do it at their own pace. That’s why the option to provide feedback needs to be open to everyone, yet in a way that’s convenient and quick to do so, usually on their own device.
Providing feedback in this way helps patients to answer honestly, anonymously and more regularly so that the next round of changes that need to be made to engagement strategies are clearer and more data-driven, ensuring that your patient engagement strategy meets the needs and expectations of its audience.
Essentially, healthcare facilities and hospitals need to recognise the need for patient engagement strategies to undergo constant change, especially in a time of crisis where the boundaries of patient experiences are changing from day to day.
That’s why we’ve also made a few changes to our patient engagement platform and will continue to do so as the patient experience progresses. Our latest updates all align with the adjustments recommended in this blog to help make it easier for hospitals to support their staff and patients post-pandemic.
Find out about all the new perks of our patient engagement platform by clicking on the link below.