Patient engagement strategies to help you create better outcomes

5 Steps to Better Patient Engagement

Engagement goes beyond patient education. It also refers to the family and caregivers, the culture of the healthcare organization, and active collaboration of everyone involved.

Research shows that patient engagement strategies not only decrease dropouts, increase loyalty, and generate new patients, but also drive better clinical outcomes. Taking a more patient-focused approach to your practice benefits both the business and the customers. Here you’ll find five steps to improve patient engagement at your clinic, and specific tips to help you create better outcomes.

What is Patient Engagement?

First of all, what exactly is patient engagement? Simply stated, it is getting the patient involved and invested in their own care. But it goes beyond just patient communication or education. It also refers to the family and caregivers, the culture of the healthcare organization, and active collaboration of everyone involved1. It expands beyond what you can accomplish during a treatment session, and requires full participation from multiple parties.

To go a step further, you can define different levels of patient engagement. Watch this video for an overview of the 3 types of patient engagement.

Healthcare practices must have a culture that promotes patient engagement and components of that culture must include patient education, collaboration in identifying appropriate treatment options, and shared decision-making in final treatment plan. The primary goal of this process is to ensure the best outcomes for the patient.

Why Is Patient Engagement Important?

Patients who are actively involved in their health and health care tend to have better outcomes. For example, engaged rehab patients are more likely to follow through with HEPs, which improves their overall outcomes.

In addition to better clinical results, some evidence suggests lower healthcare costs. One study reports that engaged patients incurred up to 21% lower costs than patients with lesser skills and confidence to actively engage in their own health care.2

Patients who are educated on and understand their diagnosis, actively listened to, and given the opportunity to participate in defining the plan of care are more motivated and adherent to their treatment program. This hastens progress and results in better outcomes and fewer visits, equating to lower cost.

Simply put, actively involved patients complete their plan of care. They are less likely to “drop out” of therapy.  They may return to the clinic for a “tune up” and any additional event that requires rehab.

Satisfied and engaged patients can be our best source of advertising. When family members, friends, and neighbors need therapy, these patients will recommend you!

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Where Do We Start?

According to the Athena Health White Paper, five elements are required to successfully achieve patient engagement in your practice/clinic:

  1. Define your clinic’s vision for patient engagement. Discuss the current state of patient engagement in your clinic and determine the desirable end state. Define the necessary steps to be taken to reach that end state.
  2. Create a culture of engagement. Include all employees in the above noted process. Buy-in by all staff is necessary for successful execution.
  3. Employ the right technology and services. This may mean development or expansion of your EHR and billing and practice management system(s), patient portal, etc. So be cognizant of the financial implications of the program.
  4. Empower patients to become collaborators in their care. To do so, provide the necessary information and education to allow them to participate in their care.
  5. Chart progress and be ready to modify as necessary. Gather information from patients in order to ascertain the success of the program. Monitor usage of the patient portal, gather metrics that measure patients’ understanding of treatment interventions.

Engagement Outside the Treatment Session

Look beyond the treatment session for ways to improve the patient experience. From the very first appointment scheduling to satisfaction surveys, there are several ways to engage your patients outside of treatment.

The patient experience begins before they arrive at your clinic. How did they find your clinic? How was the experience of scheduling their first appointment? Are they able to schedule appointments online from your website?

For their first appointment, patients expect to complete some amount of paperwork. What does that process look like for your new patients? You can simplify the experience with online forms before the appointment or a tablet set up in your clinic waiting room. If using an online platform, make sure you evaluate its ease of use and accessibility. For more ideas about improving the patient experience outside the treatment session, check out our article, 10 Low-Cost Upgrades for Your Clinic.

Technology Takes Your Practice to the Next Level

The best way to improve your patients’ experience is to use technology that simplifies the process. From online scheduling to easy-to-understand billing, you should prioritize clear and smooth communication. There are a variety of apps, website add-ons, online platforms, and digital services that will automate your patient experience.

And it doesn’t stop there. Incorporating advanced technology can improve your entire practice, from the patient experience to clinical outcomes. Take the PrimusRS for example. It gives you objective measurement of your clients’ abilities in realtime, provides an interactive treatment that patients love, and generates progress reports that you can easily share with the patients’ caregivers and other healthcare providers.

With realtime visual feedback and easy to read progress reports, patients feel engaged and encouraged with rehab on the PrimusRS. Objective reporting shows concrete evidence of their clinical progression and gives patients a goal to work towards. If you’re looking for a system that provides superior clinical outcomes and keeps patients coming back to your practice, look no further than the PrimusRS.

Involve the Family and Caregivers

Educate patients’ family members and caregivers about their condition/s and the various options for treatment. Get them involved by explaining the medical evidence, benefits, and risks of each treatment option and your clinical judgement. Making decisions with caregivers helps give voice to their patient’s needs and makes them feel more involved.

It can also be very helpful to provide information about cost. Consider the co-pay per visit and factor that into the decision-making process.

Personalize the Care Plan and HEP

Personalization is essential to patient engagement. We are treating the patient, not just the diagnosis. Consider family situation, age, cognition, culture/ethnicity, etc. As for the care plan, be sure therapy tasks are meaningful and explicitly related to the patient’s personal goals. Be sure clinic treatment is different from home exercise program to ensure return to clinic for additional visits.

Provide instructions related to the patients’ treatment regimens, such as application of heat/cold, massage, HEP, etc.  Photos or video are ideal offered either on website or phone app. Interactive HEP delivered through a mobile app can track logins, what exercises are being completed (if any at all). Compliance data can then be relayed to physicians and others. Lack of compliance may be indicative of potential dropouts and allow you to be proactive in addressing issues.

Educate Your Patients

Look for ways to educate your patients about their conditions. If you treat many patients with the same condition, think about providing brochures in the clinic or online.

Think about providing educational resources in the clinic and on website. That could be videos, charts, brochures, articles, and helpful links about certain conditions and overall wellness. Knowledge is the key to engage in shared decision making.

Patient Satisfaction Surveys

Survey patients about their care experiences. Many clinics use the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey. It specifically measures patient loyalty by asking one question: “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends or family?”

This score is predictive of business growth. To learn how to get or improve your clinic’s NPS, check out our articles on patient satisfaction and NPS surveys for clinics.

You may want to follow up with a second question – “what’s the most important reason for giving this score?” That will tell you what stands out the most in their experience. Patient relationship management (PRM) platforms are worthwhile investments in order to automate the process of tracking reviews, survey results, referrals, etc.

The Takeaways

Getting patients engaged can result in greater patient satisfaction and loyalty, retention and completion of their treatment program, and return to the clinic in the future.  You can accomplish better patient engagement by making improvements in the patient experience overall, engaging the family and caregivers, personalizing each session, providing patient education, and asking for feedback in surveys.

The best way to make the biggest impact on patient satisfaction is to use technology that makes their experience smoother and more engaging. Technology like the PrimusRS that provides realtime visual feedback and objective progress reports will get your patients more involved and excited to return to your clinic.

Remember, each aspect of your practice should be patient-centric – from the first appointment scheduling to the billing, and everything in between.


Janna Jacobs, PT, CHT, CEAS, CDP
Senior Clinical Research Specialist


  1. Athena Health. 2014. 5 Elements of a Successful Patient Engagement Strategy.
  2. James, J. 2013. Health Policy Brief: Patient Engagement. HealthAffairs.