September 14, 2021 | Engaging Patients and Families in Their Virtual Health Care

Improving patient engagement can often depend on including families in care delivery. With nearly two-thirds of older Americans receiving help from unpaid caregivers such as family members, involving them in care decision-making can be beneficial. For example, studies show that when families are engaged in the patient’s care, health outcomes and patient experience improve, according to Patient Engagement HIT.

Additionally, integrating this approach within your virtual care strategy can lead to even greater outcomes, strengthening both tactics. That’s why we explore the value in engaging both patients and their families below.


Virtual Care Strategies that Engage Patients and Families

Healthcare organizations can adopt several strategies to improve patient and family engagement. They can range from “improving office workflow, to improving how care team members interface with the patient and family, to developing shared decision-making strategies that ensure treatment is understood by and meaningful to the individual patient,” according to Patient Engagement HIT.

While these tactics are certainly helpful in encouraging the adoption of this approach, we outline a few ideas that are also supported within virtual care’s structure to help drive better outcomes.


Providing Education and Improving Health Literacy

About 40 percent of unpaid caregivers feel they do not have enough information about their family member’s health condition to helpful. Consequently, if they do not understand or follow through on the suggested care plans for the patients they are helping, it may lead the patient to become non-compliant, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Therefore, offering education to both patients and their family caregivers is crucial to the improved health and wellness of the patient. Virtual care allows this opportunity.

One way this is possible is when care teams send educational materials based on patients’ conditions. These materials can help improve health literacy so that both patients and caregivers can understand the diagnoses and what can be done to improve them.

When patients truly understand the recommendations presented to them, they are more likely to be compliant and better manage their health. This improved health literacy can also lead to the prevention of more family members living with acute or chronic diseases while improving the quality of life for family caregivers and patients.

Additionally, since care teams establish a consistent communication schedule with their patients, they can answer questions, provide education over conditions, and help patients find resources and medications available to them, according to Wellbox.


Promoting Effective Communication Tactics

Cultivating consistent and structured communication techniques with patients’ family members can help facilitate the delivery of quality care. This is because it allows family members to learn more about the patient’s condition and leads to a greater understanding of preventative care measures.

Some helpful communication tactics include motivational interviewing and teaching caregivers how to listen and communicate more effectively. “Communication techniques like motivational interviewing can promote certain health behaviors and adherence to treatment regimens by drawing out the patient’s motivation for change,” according to Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America.

These types of improved communication prepare family members for decision-making while reducing their experience of anxiety and depression because they do not feel heard or understood, according to this study.


Encouraging Patients and Families to Participate

Advocating the benefits of family engagement can be key to improving it. One way to do this is by encouraging patients and families to participate in care decision-making as advisors or even partners. If it is even more helpful, providers can suggest that the patient identify the main family care partners.

Families offer a perspective that can be critically important to the delivery of care because, alongside the patient, they are witnessing the care experience. The insight they offer can be helpful in informing providers of both their “needs, where there are care gaps and opportunities for improvement,” according to this report. Additionally, this information can help providers tailor the care experience to the patient’s preferences, which can improve patient satisfaction.

In fact, “when patients and families are partners in planning and making decisions about their care, health outcomes are better, patient experience and satisfaction improves, and often, costs are lower,” according to the same report. This is because family caregivers can help patients manage their individual follow-up care and self-management strategies, which lead to improved wellness.


Benefits of Engaging Families

Family members play a crucial role in the care of older adults. When they are invited to contribute in the virtual care delivery, they can offer great insight into “decision-making, assisting the healthcare team in providing care, improving patient safety and quality of care, assisting in-home care, and addressing expectations of patient’s family and society at large,” according to the Global Journal on Quality and Safety in Healthcare.

Here are just a few benefits of this care approach:


Practical Ways to Engage Patients and Their Families

For our clinical team at Wellbox, we believe every interaction counts with our patients. This is why we are dedicated to consistently reaching out to our patients and their family caregivers. By continuously engaging them, we can help improve the health and lives of our patients.

Some suggested and helpful ways we do this include the following:

Engaging both patients and their families can be accomplished with virtual care. In fact, its framework lends itself well to seamlessly involve family caregivers in shared decision-making while offering benefits to providers and patients alike. At Wellbox, our clinical team has seen firsthand how involving caregivers leads to effective care delivery and outcomes.

Contact us today if you would like to learn more about how Wellbox can implement this tactic and drive outcomes for your patient population.

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