The importance of pre-visit patient engagement during COVID for your DPC practice

Patient engagement has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, for both the patient and the direct primary care (DPC) provider. There are many methods and benefits for engaging the patient before the office or telehealth visit.

No-show rates drop. The DPC provider already has the capabilities to reach out to patients via text messaging or other electronic means. Engaging the patient before the visit can help ensure there are fewer missed appointments. Automated appointment reminders pre-visit are also useful, especially when set up to encourage a response and a commitment from the patient. The key is to learn which method will get the best response, whether the patient prefers texts, a patient portal message, an email, or a phone call.

Prepare appropriately for the visit. A pre-visit conversation or electronic questionnaire can help the patient and the provider prepare more appropriately for the visit, especially during COVID. Reaching out with a questionnaire or a series of questions conveyed during a phone call enables the DPC provider and the clinical team to determine what is most important to the patient and helps the physician plan the visit. Questions can include pain assessment, smoking status, a screening for recent falls, and other specific questions pertaining to the reason for the visit itself.

Patients take a more active role. Patients who are engaged pre-visit during COVID tend to take a more active role in their own healthcare. Rather than passively waiting for the appointment itself, they will prepare their questions and concerns ahead of time, particularly when they have been encouraged with pre-visit outreach from the provider. Leveraging technology such as electronic health records (EHRs), particularly, in engaging patients can enhance the integration of patient priorities into the office or telehealth encounter.

Communication improves. Likewise, EHR technology can improve communications with the patient pre-visit, for the DPC practice. The questionnaire can be integrated into the online patient record, increasing the level and effectiveness of communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both before and during the visit, the tool can support patient engagement as well as the provider’s work, whether the visit is in person or virtual.

Health outcomes improve. Pre-visit patient engagement is vital during COVID-19 to ensure everyone’s safety and health. Screening for coronavirus symptoms and exposure can help the provider educate the patient as to how to proceed. For example, a non-essential appointment may need to be rescheduled. Pre-visit engagement reduces exposure for the DPC practice, including clinical staff and patients.

Patient engagement has also been shown to improve health outcomes generally. When an individual becomes an active participant in their own healthcare, they are more likely to follow through with instructions regarding medications, diet, or exercise. They are also more likely to follow through on appointments with the DPC practice as well as follow up tests and diagnostics.

The practice remains viable. DPC providers who focus on patient engagement and invest in patient-centered technology will be more likely to overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic impacts on healthcare. Patient expectations have been raised regarding easy and quick access to healthcare, with the advent of convenient telehealth options. For the DPC practice, telehealth and other patient-centered options have been integral to their operations so they are better prepared to remain viable through patient engagement during COVID.