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Creating a More Engaging, Safe, and Empowered Patient Experience

Andre Ahuja
By Andre Ahuja on December 21, 2023
Creating a More Engaging, Safe, and Empowered Patient Experience
Creating a More Engaging, Safe, and Empowered Patient Experience

Creating a More Engaging, Safe, and Empowered Patient Experience

Andre Ahuja
By Andre Ahuja on December 21, 2023

There’s no denying technological innovations are shifting the very foundation of what healthcare looks like, impacting how, when, and where care is delivered and providing more data and information to organizations and patients than some know what to do with. But another evolving aspect of care that healthcare leaders must also understand is a uniquely human concern: provider-patient relationships.

As patients gain more proactive control over their healthcare experiences, they’re increasingly expressing a desire for a new type of care, one that equalizes power between provider and patient and values providers’ non-technical skills as much as clinical expertise.

What exactly is the modern patient looking for? And, more importantly, how can providers meet — or even exceed — those expectations to make patients feel engaged, safe, and part of their care teams?

What Do Patients Really Want?

While all patients value positive health outcomes, a recent Accenture survey found that most are looking for more than good clinical results. They desire strong relationships with their providers.

The survey, which collected insights from nearly 12,000 patients in 14 countries, found that empathy, emotional support, trust, transparency, and clear communication were key elements of a great healthcare experience.

While low healthcare costs, smooth technological logistics, and access to digital solutions also matter to patients, most intrinsically understand that positive clinical outcomes derive in part from a truly satisfying patient experience. And the data supports that instinct: A 2013 foundational study found that positive experiences correlate to higher rates of patient safety and clinical effectiveness. And according to a recent Deloitte report, better experiences result in better care quality scores.

Equity and Quality in Healthcare

The demand and need for a better patient experience is particularly critical given long-standing disparities in the system. One Sanofi poll, for example, found that people of color and LGBTQ-identified patients are far more likely to have had experiences with providers that damaged their trust compared to their white and straight peers. A staggering 73% of people with disabilities reported similar experiences, compared to only 56% of able-bodied patients.

The wavering trust between patients in marginalized populations and their providers is a direct result of systemic disparities. In terms of COVID-19 alone, for example, these patients are more likely to experience poor clinical outcomes and harm to their mental health than others. And Pacific Islanders, Latino, Indigenous, and Black patients experience COVID-related death rates at double the rate of their white peers.

That’s why marginalized patients specifically — and all patients more generally — are demanding better care experiences. One study, for example, found that traditionally underserved patients are looking for four main things:

  • Autonomy in the care setting
  • Care that values their whole selves
  • Communication in understandable terms
  • Responsiveness to their unique needs

Placing patient needs like empathy, communication, trust, and respect at the forefront of care delivery is the foundation of building a positive and engaging experience, and providing patients with the autonomy to influence the direction of their care supports their sense of psychological safety, which in provider-patient relationships is the absence of fear to voice ideas and concerns.

How to Create Psychological Safety

On the provider side of the healthcare equation, organizations have long recognized the importance of psychological safety in improving clinical teamwork. Organizations that foster environments in which providers feel safe speaking up, comfortable taking calculated risks, and confident that their work will be met with empathy see better outcomes. A study of a radiation oncology department, for example, showed that higher rates of psychological safety were associated with stronger rates of near-miss reporting.

Now, facilities are turning this focus to those they serve, using frameworks designed to improve the overall patient experience.

As one example, the Neuroception of Psychological Safety Scale (NPSS), developed by the University of Strathclyde, is a 29-item survey that healthcare leaders can use to assess how safe a patient feels in their care. The first to combine psychological and social components with physiological concerns, the NPSS survey breaks questions down into three sub-parts focusing on social engagement, compassion, and bodily sensations.

By using the NPSS scale to measure their patients’ feelings of psychological safety, providers are better equipped to cultivate stronger relationships and take key actions that drive measurable improvements in care, including:

  • Leading with empathy and an open ear. To trust their providers, patients need to feel holistically cared for. Engaging with the medical system or discussing a sensitive health topic can be challenging for many patients, so providers can build trust by breaking down communication barriers, demonstrating that they care for all aspects of the patients’ life, and giving patients space to speak freely about their concerns.

  • Communicating clearly. Key to empathetic care is communicating in accessible terms and formats. Providers that can translate complex medical jargon into understandable language and offer clinical education in multiple media formats tend to connect better with patients and improve psychological safety.

  • Actively respecting boundaries. Respected boundaries are signals of an egalitarian care environment in which patients are in control of their bodies and work with their providers to make informed decisions. Providers should give patients the educational materials they need to balance clinical needs with personal boundaries — and accept the informed boundaries patients set.

Medical care can be vulnerable and even intimate for many patients. But by fostering genuine human connection, providers can bring a level of comfortability that can boost psychological safety — and clinical outcomes.

Where Tech Meets the Human Touch

Although we’ve talked extensively about the human side of care, technology is also essential when learning how to create psychological safety and an engaging patient experience. It empowers patients with a wealth of information that allows them to feel confident and comfortable having a voice as the central figure in their care team. And many patients are eager for more tools that put control back into their hands. According to the Accenture survey, for example, 23% of patients worldwide value virtual consultations, 21% want electronic health records, 20% look for access to mobile apps, and 19% use wearables to track their health.

To help empower patients, healthcare organizations should invest in the following tools.

Broader Telehealth Access

More than 60 million people in the U.S. reside in rural areas, lacking consistent, easy access to medical facilities. That’s one-fifth of all Americans.

For these patients, telehealth can be critical to their overall well-being. Offering healthcare visits via phone or video can help build connection with patients that might not otherwise engage with providers very often.

But these patients are also more likely to distrust tech services like telehealth, fearing their personal information might not be safe, according to the Rural Health Information Hub. That’s why it’s crucial for providers to communicate clearly how their systems protect sensitive data while giving them access to their providers at the times and in the ways they prefer.

Accessible Patient Portals

Web-based portals can offer patients a whole host of experience-enhancing features, including:

  • The ability to schedule their own appointments without waiting on busy staff
  • Two-way communication with providers that nurtures the patient-provider relationship
  • Access to their own medical records for transparency and ownership over their care

Providers can also use portals to share multimedia educational resources that can help patients better understand their diagnoses and treatment plans.

Mobile Apps

Comprehensive mobile applications can help providers bridge knowledge gaps and give patients tools — sometimes gamified tools — to learn about their own health. They can provide patients with a convenient platform for tracking fitness, learning about holistic well-being, and engaging with providers across the care continuum.

A One-Stop Shop for Patient Empowerment

Technology is even more effective in creating psychologically safe, engaging and empowering healthcare experiences when it’s tailored to the patients themselves.

That’s what Elxo delivers.

We create custom, low- and no-code solutions — such as apps and web portals — that organizations can adapt to their patients’ shifting needs to create psychologically safe experiences. We help providers empower patients through empowered technologies. And we do it all with the patient in mind.

Explore our suite of software solutions today to learn about how great tools can supplement great healthcare.

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