Future of Patient Engagement: From Digital to Smart

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Patient engagement is the practice where patients participate actively in their own treatments, and often in related research efforts with regards to their conditions prior and post the treatment. Patient engagement is not self-management, it is based on close cooperation with medical practitioners, researchers and healthcare institutions.

Main Components of Patient Engagement

Patient advisory, patient partnership and patient-oriented research are the three most notable components of patient engagement. Patient advisors are appointed by healthcare providers or health boards to provide advice to healthcare institutions from the perspective of patients, their relatives and caregivers. Patient partnership is conducted between in most cases patients with chronic conditions to ensure proper level of care. Sometimes, patient partnerships are research projects. Patient-oriented research means that healthcare personnel, while conducting research, engages with patients, their relatives, friends and caregivers.


Patient engagement is a part to patient participation, therefore it is necessary to place it into context with other important concepts. One such concept is participatory healthcare. It describes the strive of the modern healthcare towards more consumer-centricity and participatory medicine, based on connected and data drive patient engagement technologies. Participatory healthcare embraces notions of patient engagement and patient-centered care. The latter considers needs and desired health outcomes of a patient as the driving force in healthcare decision making process. Patient centric healthcare regards patients as partners not only in the clinical context, but also in the context of their emotional, mental, and spiritual health, as well as social and financial sustainability.

Patient experience is another concept important to patient engagement. It includes any interaction between a patient and a healthcare system, from awareness to post-care services. Successful patient experience is above the emotional level, it is about keeping patients motivated and engaged.

Where we are now?

The current trends in patient engagement may be grouped around:

Prioritisation of health equity

Healthcare organizations must health equity and address systemic barriers to access to care. Mostly they do it by partnering with patients’ organisations and communities through collaboration programs, specific projects and digital tools.

Rich patient-doctor communication is the norm

Patients expect tighter connections, more access, more response, and more strategic communications, in the same way they experience in other industries than healthcare, including live chats and social channel, personalised advice.

Patient experience became mobile

Health systems adapt their processes and technologies to embrace telehealth. Hence, tablets and smartphones are empowering doctors, enhancing patient care, improving patient outcomes and experiences.

Automation supports patient experiences

From virtual clinical trials to robotic assisted surgical procedures and AI supported rehabilitation, automated systems encourage deeper patient engagement with doctors. In result, patient satisfaction is ensured throughout the continuum of care. In the future, we may expect faster scheduling of appointments, error-free EHRs with on-demand access, more timely and accurate medical interventions.

What may the future bring?

The current trends listed above may bring the following shifts in patient engagement:

Shift from digital to smart tech

The recent digitization of healthcare systems, that is the shift from paper to digital, will not be enough to meet needs of personalised healthcare. The next step is to employ smart technologies: algorithms for data driven analytics, machine learning, and other AI technologies.

Shift to social determinants of health

Healthcare providers of the future will address social determinants for health (SDoH), due to their significant effects on patient wellbeing. It will require restructuring to attend social needs of patients.

Shift to interactive platforms

Modern patient engagement platforms can identify a patient by name and customize information based on the found EHR. Future interactive healthcare platforms are likely to take several steps further in more meaningful interactions, building relationships, establishing trust.


Shift to closing knowledge gap

Patient self-awareness is often patchy. It is clear that closing knowledge gaps is crucial to patient engagement, especially at discharge by hospitals. Future healthcare providers will have processes built in their workflows to identify knowledge gap prior and during treatments, and to make sure patients have a holistic overview, context to their conditions, and factors that influence positive outcomes.

Shift to real time feedback tools

Real time access has proven to be vital to patent engagement. We expect to see more active development of software tools to ensure real time interactions between healthcare providers and patients. The quality of chatbots is also expected to increase along these developments.

Shift to patient empowerment

An empowered patient can find a relevant healthcare provider, manage appointments, obtain background information prior to a visit, update own healthcare information, access messages from healthcare providers. A successful shift to patient empowerment may include identification of goals, identification of future-proof tools, simplification of processes, effective change management

Shift to trust

Healthcare services are increasingly perceived as other service provided by firms on an open market, as opposed to the old perception of healthcare as a government provided service. In this context, winning patients’ trust becomes imperative for healthcare providers, especially when employing innovations.