Five KPIs To Help Measure Patient Engagement in Your Practice

Managers of healthcare practices talk a lot about patient engagement, loyalty, and retention. Part of their strategy might be to provide patients with access to a patient portal, invest in their practice’s website, or implement other technology that makes care more convenient. But are they actually measuring the efficacy of their efforts?

“Unfortunately, providers tend to do a fairly bad job at measuring levels of engagement,” says Jan Oldenburg, patient engagement strategist at Participatory Health Consulting. Why? Too many competing demands. Practice managers might implement one or more of these efforts but then get caught up in the day-to-day operations of running a busy practice. Their focus is primarily on revenue-generating tasks that directly affect the bottom line.

However, in an age of healthcare consumerism, measuring patient engagement is arguably as important as measuring a practice’s denial rate. When patients are engaged, they return for follow-up visits. They make—and keep—preventive visits. They reach out to their provider—not an urgent care facility—when they’re sick. They listen to their physician and follow through with health recommendations that ultimately improve outcomes. They may even refer other patients to the practice. All of these things are also good for the bottom line.

Want to measure patient engagement but not sure where to begin? Oldenburg suggests starting with these five key performance indicators (KPI) that give a glimpse into engagement levels.

1. Portal enrollment and usage.

“Practices need to pay attention to this digital component as their front door,” says Oldenburg. “Hopefully, because of the pandemic, patients started feeling more comfortable using things like self-scheduling options, symptom checkers, physician messaging, and online bill pay.” If portal usage didn’t increase, it could be because the practice needs to educate patients more about this tool and how to use it, or it may need to refresh the capabilities on its site.

2. Website traffic.

Even though the spread of COVID-19 is slowing down, practices should have seen an increase in traffic to their website—particularly portions of the site devoted to pandemic-related safety protocols. If a practice doesn’t have any content related to COVID-19 on its site, it is still a good idea to have it for patients to reassure them of safety protocols. Then, of course, follow through with those protocols, says Oldenburg. Interestingly, a recent survey found that 64% of patients are likely to switch providers if they do not meet expectations handling COVID-19. 

3. Unpaid balances.

This KPI speaks to post-visit patient engagement. As before COVID-19 and certainly after, patients are facing an extraordinary amount of stress and financial hardship and practices need to make this process as seamless as possible. Price transparency, up-front collections, accurate billing, clear and concise billing statements, and online bill pay are all critical, says Oldenburg. “We tend to think about quality of care as a metric that’s very separate from the billing experience,” she says. “But in fact, if people have a terrible billing experience, it impacts how they think about the quality of the whole experience.”

4. Cancellation rates.

The patient cancellation rate is a metric worth examining in the context of other data, says Oldenburg. For example, has the cancellation rate increased because there’s a six month wait time for an appointment—even for existing patients? Patients may simply cancel their appointment because they find another physician who can accommodate them within a week. In that case, perhaps the practice needs to hire more providers or re-evaluate workflow efficiency to increase patient access. Online scheduling can also help reduce the cancellation rate while also boosting patient engagement, says Oldenburg. That’s because patients can look at all available options when it’s convenient for them—and choose what’s best for their schedule. They can also easily reschedule rather than cancel completely without having to wait on hold for a receptionist.

5. Formal complaints and grievances.

This is a KPI that practices definitely want to monitor and address immediately, says Oldenburg. However, it’s equally important to monitor and address informal complaints, particularly those on social media sites. “Practices tend to think of social media as a broadcast mechanism, but it can also be a listening device,” she adds. Other strategies to glean patient engagement Measuring KPIs is only one way to better understand whether and to what degree patients are engaged with your practice. Consider these additional strategies as well: First, ask patients to complete a post-visit survey.

Oldenburg provides these tips:

Survey patients as soon after their appointment as possible. Don’t let days or weeks go by. “People want to be surveyed while the information is fresh in their minds,” she says.

• Test various methods. This includes automated text message and email surveys as well as post card surveys given to patients as they check out. Patients can simply complete them right there on the spot and then drop them in a secure box. Which method yields the most responses?

• Ask these questions: How easy was it to make an appointment? How would you describe the quality of care your physician provided? Do you feel as if we adhered to COVID-19-related safety protocols? What can we do to make your care more convenient and seamless? Is there anything else you want us to know? “People want convenience,” says Oldenburg.

"They’ve been telling us that for a long time, we often design our health systems around convenience for the people who work inside of them—not for the actual patients.” Second, ask physicians to ask patients directly about their overall experience. “Having your doctor ask you about your experience is a great loyalty builder,” says Oldenburg.

Practices that pay attention to engagement, safety, and convenience for patients during the pandemic can build a reservoir of loyalty for years to come. For more information to help you boost your patient engagement, visit us here. 

About the Author

Lisa A. Eramo, BA, MA is a freelance writer specializing in health information management, medical coding, and regulatory topics. She began her healthcare career as a...

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