Part II: Four Steps to Maintain Patient Engagement after Discharge

by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on May 5, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part blog series. Read the first blog here.

Technology can help engage patients and their families in their post-acute care plans.In my blog last week, I talked about the fact that engaging patients in their care is essential to care quality, increasing patient satisfaction and achieving positive patient outcomes.

I explained the first two steps to take to maintain patient engagement after discharge.

First, communication is key. Help the patient and family understand the diagnosis, and by talking to them, assess the patient’s health literacy and readiness to learn. Educate and communicate with them in their preferred manner—verbally or through written or electronic communication—and ask, then use, their preferred language.

The second step is to ensure that the patient and family not only know what the care plan includes, but also what’s expected of them to make sure the plan is followed. When all involved are committed to their roles and expectations, the patient is more likely to meet key milestones in recovery, contributing to better outcomes.

So what’s next?

Step Three: Keep the Patient and Family Actively Involved in Care Transitions
In a time when patients and families may feel helpless, urging them to be directly involved in care decisions and transitions is one way to keep them engaged and empowered—an important component of long-term patient satisfaction.

A great way to involve patients in care transitions is to leverage discharge and care coordination technology to connect patients with possible post-acute providers while the patient is still in the hospital. Automated solutions can streamline care transitions by delivering key information about post-acute providers, in turn enabling patients and families to make informed decisions quickly and easily.

Manually arranging post-acute care transitions can take days, but care coordination and discharge technology help hospitals obtain responses from providers in as little as 30 minutes. This allows patients and family members to efficiently review their options, identify preferred providers and make choices—without adding unnecessary days to a patient’s stay.

Step Four: Leverage Technology to Continue Patient Oversight
The post-acute care stay is one of the most critical times to communicate with patients, because they may forget care instructions or find it difficult to adapt to new demands or change old habits later. Technology can make it easier for hospitals to keep patients, families and providers focused on the patient’s care and working toward the same goal.

For instance, care coordination and communication platforms offer support to patients and their families by sending reminders and tracking recovery progress through social media, email, text messaging and other tools. This allows hospitals and providers to stay virtually connected with their patients, monitoring progress and overseeing care long after discharge.

Helping Patients Help Themselves
As the health-care model evolves, the patient’s role in and responsibility for following care plans after discharge will increase, and hospitals need to find ways to help patients help themselves.

By providing patient-focused education before discharge and using technology to maintain communication after the patient leaves the acute setting, hospitals can stay in touch with their patients, allowing them to monitor progress and proactively intervene when milestones in the care plan aren’t met.

I encourage you to read about some of the technology solutions that are available to help get patients and their families actively engaged in and committed to their post-acute care plans.

Meet the Author

Thalken brings more than 30 years of experience in health-care leadership to our company. Prior to joining the company, she served as Enterprise Vice President for Care Logistics in Atlanta, Ga. She has held executive leadership positions at hospitals in Nebraska and Iowa, including the position of System Quality Executive for Alegent Health. Thalken has presented on the topics of improving quality, patient flow and throughput at various industry conferences and webinars. Thalken holds an MBA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, American Organization of Nurse Executives and American Case Management Association.