Don’t get me wrong; I’m excited about all the advancements in technology that improve the patient and family experience. When I compare the healthcare world today to that of my early years as a bedside nurse, I’m enthused about all the wonderful tools that exist to aid in education, self-care, and service. But it nags at me when I look through all the things being labeled as patient engagement to realize that 95% of them are gadgets. Tools that can be used by the provider and organization to engage the patient. Only a small fraction of what is labelled as “patient engagement” has anything to do with behavior.
Think of the word engagement. The dictionary defines it as a betrothal, employment, or being closely involved with someone. But add the word patient in front of the word engagement and try to find the definition. Currently there is no widely accepted definition of patient engagement but two words that are often used in the discussion are: involvement and participation. The patient is involved and participating in his care in a way that is meaningful to him.
Having been at The Beryl Institute Conference last week and reading reviews from HIMSS this week, I’ve been exposed to several interactive tools.
Some of the tools like including PCare Interactive, by TVR Communications, are a nurse’s dream. As someone who has always highly valued patient education and identifying teachable moments, the thought of accessing video and literature on demand at the bedside is a luxury I never knew but could only dream of. And today it’s here, available, and in the patient’s hands when she wants it, not just when the nurse has time to teach. The tools are phenomenal.
And yet, when I think of engagement, I think of human interaction. People connecting with people. My hope as we move into the next generation of technological advancements that we work to keep the human side of engagement and remember that we’re putting the technology in the hands of human beings serving human beings.