Improving patient engagement through translation and localisation
Patient engagement is a hot topic in the healthcare industry. Understanding this concept is a giant leap toward improving the quality of patient care and the way services are delivered in the industry. Healthcare businesses utilise more resources, time, and staff to attract new customers than to retain the existing ones. Better patient engagement is, therefore, the focus for many healthcare organisations because it ensures continuity of care and a higher level of satisfaction among patients. Discover how to foster improved patient engagement and make it a part of your organisational culture.
What is Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement is defined as keeping your patients informed as much as possible about the course of treatment and their overall health or medical status. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) define it as patients taking an active role together with their healthcare provider in improving health and making informed decisions.
Actively engaging patients empowers them because they can be more involved in gathering information about their health conditions, as well as in choosing the medications and treatment for them. The health care providers and the patient are actively working together as a team rather than the patient being a passive member, which is the case in the past.
If doctors and healthcare providers make autonomous decisions about your treatment and other health needs, there is no patient engagement. The simplest definition of engagement is when there is two-way communication and patient involvement rather than one-way communication supervised by the doctor. Patient education is also a critical part of a patient engagement strategy.
The patient engagement initiatives must take place from the start of the treatment process until the end of it, ensuring total patient involvement.
Patient engagement is the ultimate goal for healthcare and medical organisations. However, implementing strategies to achieve this goal is not without its set of challenges. There are several areas that pose a challenge in implementing the best patient engagement strategies that could limit the success of the improved healthcare system.
Communication is at the core of a successful patient engagement strategy. Clear communication makes the enhanced quality of health care delivery possible, whether for in-office or virtual visits. When there is no communication or it is done poorly, the healthcare outcome is compromised.
There are other underlying issues that can make communication a barrier to improved patient engagement. Shared decision-making is limited due to the cultural background, educational level, and personal experiences of a patient. When the patient does not fully understand the information provided by the physician, it can also make them less empowered to ask questions and gain an in-depth knowledge of their medical condition and healthcare options.
Communication issues in patient engagement often stem from the language barrier. If the healthcare provider uses one language and the patient another, there is a gap in communication. This gap makes it difficult to convey the diagnosis of the patient’s condition, as well as conveying the treatment plan.
There is a possibility that important healthcare information could be “lost in translation”, even when you try to bridge the language gap with translation or other forms of interpretation. Taking steps to not only translate but also localise content can significantly improve the patient’s experience and understanding.
Time is one of the most overlooked barriers to boosting patient engagement in the medical industry. The changes in the clinical workflow and the methods implemented regarding patient engagement take time, effort, and resources. It requires involvement from every member of the team to ensure an efficient program design. In most cases, it will require a change in company culture and mindset.
The lack of commitment in time prevents most healthcare organisations from achieving their goal of engaging patients because many are not invested in training their staff or hiring translation services to overcome communication and language issues.
The feeling of burnout that doctors and physicians experience, along with their staff, further contributes to the unwillingness of many to handle the necessary changes and adjustments to existing processes.
The social determinants of health refer to factors such as age, gender, social status, class, race, etc. It is undeniable that these factors play a role in how patients receive care and the quality of life outcomes they get. These factors can act as a barrier to patient engagement and also minimises the opportunity for some patients to enjoy better health outcomes due to the limited access to resources and competent healthcare facilities.
For example, a patient’s location in a remote area limits their access to expert doctors that can provide quality diagnoses and treatment for their health condition.
There are manifold benefits that can be achieved when improving patient engagement. Traditionally, patients would follow whatever the healthcare providers would advise since they are of the assumption that the doctors are the “experts.” Therefore, their opinions are held of value by patients and those recommendations are not questioned.
Over time, this approach has led to an increased level of patient dissatisfaction with the results of their medical treatment. Some of the patients would go out and seek another doctor’s opinion about their condition and the suggested treatment. The lack of input from patients about the course of treatment made patients feel less valued in the healthcare process.
Nowadays, patient engagement is of utmost priority in the healthcare industry. It is seen as equivalent to quality medical care and is linked to positive healthcare outcomes and improved patient experience. The focus on engagement shifts the dynamic of the patient-doctor relationship, which now assigns the power to the patient. The latter are the ones who will take an active role in their medical treatment with healthcare professionals only serving to provide them with the correct medical guidance. It is ultimately the patient who will be actively involved in the decision-making for their treatment plans.
Below is a detailed look into the importance and benefits when you improve patient engagement.
1. Improved healthcare outcomes
Implementing strategies to boost patient engagement can result in better healthcare outcomes for the patient. When the latter is highly engaged in the treatment, they are more likely to follow their medications and other recommended treatments. Self-management is integral to the success of any treatment. It also helps to avoid any complications that could arise from the treatment, with fewer visits to the doctor and a lesser likelihood of hospital admissions.
Patients who are also engaged have a higher recovery rate than those who are not engaged. The involvement in the treatment process reduces other health risks and complications due to the patient taking full responsibility for their own health. They are more likely to undergo regular health checkups and pre-health screening. These patients also have the tendency to avoid lifestyle factors that can further debilitate their condition.
These factors contribute to improved patient knowledge and overall treatment success rate.
2. Health literacy for patients
Health literacy in patients is important for improved healthcare outcomes. The increased knowledge comes as a result of patient engagement.
Health literacy is defined as the patient’s ability to access, use, and interpret certain health information. A lack of health literacy is one of the major barriers to the healthcare system. This is a good strategy to overcome the current healthcare crisis wherein patients lack an understanding of their diagnosis and the available treatment options.
When a patient has a high health literacy rate, they are also highly motivated to make a conscious effort to take better care of their health. They also cooperate with the healthcare provider in the treatment process because of their higher understanding of their treatment plans.
3. Reduced healthcare costs
The reduced healthcare cost is one of the main benefits of improved patient engagement that is often overlooked. When you engage patients, it leads to better health care that can translate to reduced costs for healthcare organisations.
One such area wherein this is evident is through improved medication management. Better medication management can improve patient health outcomes and reduces the need for readmission while also avoiding non-compliance issues.
The use of healthcare technology also contributes to reduced healthcare costs and improved patient engagement. Technological tools enable more accurate diagnosis and administration of treatment, which makes every patient visit safe and effective.
The biggest impact of patient engagement tools in terms of costs would concern the compliance of healthcare organisations with existing rules and regulations. In the event of non-compliance violations, healthcare organisations could be faced with hefty fines.
Patient trust is a vital component of successful health care and a good measure of quality patient care. A patient who trusts their healthcare provider is more involved in their treatment plan because they have more confidence in the level of care given to them. On the other hand, patient trust is a direct result of the healthcare organisation’s cultural competency. When there is a lack of discrimination, there is a better healthcare ecosystem that results from the patient-healthcare relationship.
Translation and Localisation in the Medical Industry
Translation is a critical tool in the health system if healthcare providers and organisations were to prioritise improved patient outcomes and create more engaged patients. The barriers discussed above somehow stem from one issue: communication.
Today’s world highlights and embraces the diversity among different cultures, ethnicity, races, and gender. These factors are directly correlated to linguistic challenges, which are surprising to many, especially in the healthcare industry, given the advancements in health information technology and digital communication tools.
However, access to tools and technologies that facilitate health and care does not guarantee that you can get activated patients. The diversity and cultural differences must be accounted for if you want to involve patients.
Translation is seen as a vital tool that can bridge the gap in communication, especially if you want to inform patients about their conditions and encourage participation in the patient journey. Differences in cultures and languages can also mean that information is processed in different ways, depending on who is being addressed.
Medical translation is making waves recently for its ability to process different forms of medical content and information to make it easier to understand within the context of those who will be using that information. Health services and organisations employ medical translators and subject matter experts to ensure that medical information written in a foreign language is translated and localised accurately and effectively. Without this tool, crucial information that could have serious practice implications could be lost in translation. It could lead to delay care or unmet medical needs.
It’s no wonder why there is a growing demand for medical translation jobs in the last decade. It reflects the importance of translation services in advocacy to improve patient engagement in the healthcare industry. However, these professionals do not just translate the text on a literal level. The translator must have a broad understanding of the medical concepts and terms in the applicable documents or reports being translated. This knowledge will ensure that they understand the context of the language being written and can offer a more accurate translation of the text that would be easy for patients to understand and use.
Localisation is a different concept from translation. Therefore, these two must not be confused as being one and the same. Doing so will dilute the value that each can offer as far as delivering the intended message.
In the succeeding sections, you will uncover the differences in localisation and translation and why it’s important to make a distinction.
Benefits of Translation to Boost Patient Engagement
As clinical research continues to expand globally, there are more clinical studies and reports that are published in foreign languages. The same goes for the manufacture of medical devices, medicines, and other medical tools or equipment. Improving patient engagement strategy begins by ensuring that the information about these reports and products is easily accessible to the patient.
To understand how important translation is in this situation, put yourself in the shoes of the patients. Will you consent to a medical procedure or the administration of medication without adequate knowledge of its benefits and side effects? The answer is probably no. Patient and provider education is the heart and soul of actively engaging patients.
Taking the time to provide your patients with accurately and locally translated medical reports and information about their treatment will increase their confidence in the procedure, and its potential effects. Engaged patients are more likely to experience better health outcomes than those who are not engaged in their treatment plan. If patient engagement is the goal within a health system, it’s important to develop a patient engagement strategy that can target patients of diverse backgrounds.
Translation plays a pivotal role in improving patient outcomes through engaging patients. Make sure you provide them with culturally relevant and accurate information so you can get better patient participation.
Overcoming language and cultural barriers becomes possible when you develop patient engagement initiatives alongside enhanced translation services. The following are some of the benefits of optimal patient engagement through translation and localisation.
Quality Translation Saves Lives
Time is of the essence in the healthcare setting, especially when dealing with serious and chronic conditions. Any misunderstanding or ambiguity in the communication between the patient and primary care provider could have potentially serious results.
When you have a system in place to ensure accurate translation of crucial medical information relating to the treatment options and the care process, there is a lesser likelihood of such miscommunication happening. It will also reduce the possibility of medical errors and will have better outcomes.
It might seem trivial but communication has had fatal results in the past. When the worst happens, healthcare organisations also face liabilities. Saving lives should be the main goal for healthcare providers and it starts with quality translation and optimal patient engagement.
Quality Translation Saves Resources
If you are serving patients from diverse backgrounds, you need quality translation services to aid you in your quest to improve outcomes and boost the engagement process with patients.
A qualified translation service makes the process of localising essential patient health information go seamless and efficient. It saves you essential resources because your other staff can focus on the core aspects of running your healthcare facility. A medical translator can boost your staff productivity and allow you to reach patients of diverse backgrounds.
Quality Translations Improve Quality of Patient Care
When you hire human translators, it is ultimately the patient who benefits in this situation. Improving patient care happens as a result of having activated patients. When patients are more involved in their journey, they feel empowered in the decision-making process.
Taking patient preferences into account is important because you want patients to be comfortable with the treatment options they chose to undergo. An important part of enhanced healthcare delivery to patients includes making sure that they are fully educated about their health conditions.
Quality Translations Encourage Patient Activation
The beneficial impact when you improve patient engagement is not limited to the healthcare settings, such as clinics and hospitals. It also promotes the active role of patients in their own care and health.
When you take the time to educate and inform patients about their condition, they will actively seek health and care. They are more likely to show up to their appointments with the physician (whether in-office or virtual visits), follow their medication plan, and see their physicians for follow-up care. Actively engaged patients understand that they have a role to play in the self-management of their health conditions rather than being passive participants.
Quality Translation Minimises Medical Errors
In the NHS report in 2020, there is an estimated value of over £98 million with up to 1,700 lives at risk due to medical errors that could be easily avoided. The issue of medical errors should be a thing of the past, especially with the advancements in technology within the health system.
Medical translations can contribute to reducing the likelihood of medical errors, especially those stemming from communication and language barriers.
Quality Translation Speeds Up Delivery of Health Services
The smooth and efficient communication between the patient and their primary care provider can also facilitate the faster delivery of care. As a result, it helps healthcare organisations and providers reach more patients. The improved communication and the lack of language barriers make it possible for healthcare providers and patients to access better equipment, facilitate service delivery, and obtain treatment in a timely manner.
Any healthcare professional knows that delayed care can be detrimental to the care outcomes of patients. The mobility of health services to more patients is also directly linked to overall patient satisfaction with the services provided to them. When you engage patients, they get faster services from healthcare professionals and are more satisfied.
When it comes to providing medical care and the healthcare system, there is so much talk about globalisation. While it is undeniable that globalisation has its share of benefits, you should aim for localisation if you desire to increase patient engagement.
A direct translation is not enough in many forms of patient engagement. There are cultural differences, racial backgrounds, and personal experiences that you must account for during the patient activation process.
Localisation is the process by which you cater to cultural differences when analysing texts, especially in the medical field. For example, the same word could mean two different things depending on who is reading or interpreting that text. This is the missing component in patient activation that health experts are rallying for to ensure that patients become more involved in the decision-making and that they have the right level of education to make those decisions.
How to Develop a Patient Engagement Strategy
Engaged patients take a more proactive role in managing their own health. This is why many healthcare organisations strive to increase patient engagement as it boosts the overall quality of care that patients receive. A robust patient engagement strategy can also bring about many benefits such as patient activation, trust, loyalty, and an overall positive experience.
Before you develop your patient engagement strategy, you need to ask these questions first. These are just some of the questions you must address for actively engaged patients and improve the overall care process.
- How do I promote patient education?
- How do I encourage patients to become the managers of their own health?
- How do I empower patients to make those crucial choices about their health?
- How do I enhance service delivery to make patient visits more efficient?
1. Know your patients.
The first step to increasing patient engagement is to know your patients. You can improve patient journeys through a process known as patient segmentation. Your organisation must break down your patient demographic into various segments, such as age, type of condition, etc. The process of segmentation is crucial in your patient engagement strategy as it provides detailed insights into how you can improve service delivery based on diagnosis, coverage, and health risks. This information will also improve the overall satisfaction of patients based on the level and quality of care provided to them.
You can conduct a patient health analysis to identify high-risk patients who are in need of immediate care. From there, you can break down all other essential information to facilitate better healthcare for them, such as symptoms, insurance coverage, side effects, and more.
The process of segmenting your patients is not only beneficial to improve patient engagement. It also benefits the healthcare organization since you can maximize your resources and manpower to deliver better patient outcomes.
2. Educate your patients.
Actively engaged patients are the ones who are also well-informed about their health conditions. Activated patients are more likely to become involved in the decision-making and self-management of their conditions, too.
This is one of the key factors to consider when formulating a patient engagement strategy. It is important to educate patients about their conditions. The more a patient understands the risks of their conditions, the more they are going to stick with the treatment plan and seek follow-up care with their primary care provider. This is very common among patients who suffer from chronic conditions. Many patients take time to visit their doctor only to never follow through with the recommended treatment plan or take their medications religiously. The poor compliance with the suggested treatment methods results from a lack of understanding of the risk and necessary treatments for their chronic conditions.
Patient education should be given more focus by health organizations. This study supports the idea that educating a patient will increase the likelihood of them being fully engaged in the care process. Moreover, actively engaged patients enjoy a higher level of satisfaction with their healthcare outcomes.
It is important to establish clear communication with patients from the start of the treatment plan. You must provide them with educational materials that have been localized to ensure that they understand the scope of their health condition and the necessary steps to improve it.
3. Make patients part of the decision-making process.
While patient education is crucial, it is not the end of the patient engagement strategy. Patient education builds the foundation so they can be a part of the shared-decision making process with their providers.
Clinicians and patients must work hand in hand in making decisions on which tests and treatments to undergo. They should also be a part of the overall care plan development.
If patients chose the treatment that they undergo, they will become more involved in it. Meanwhile, if they are not consulted about the treatment plan, they might feel indecisive or are not as confident with the procedure they are about to undergo. As a result, follow-up care is not there and it reduces the health care outcomes.
4. Deliver continuous care.
Engaged patients are also committed to receiving follow-up care from their doctors versus those who lack patient education.
Every interaction counts in your patient engagement strategies. It is important to ensure clear communication even after the initial treatment is given. Delivering continuous care is crucial to obtaining preventive care for possible complications, and improving outcomes of the initial treatment. This is crucial for chronic disease or preventive care of high-risk conditions.
Make an effort to reach patients and maintain communication to ensure continuity of care. For example, diabetic patients require constant guidance to ensure that they are informed about the best treatment options and lifestyle changes to improve their condition. Health coaches might even be provided to monitor the improvement and self-management of patient health at home.
5. Overcome barriers to the delivery of healthcare services.
The best patient engagement strategies do not end at identifying the barriers to engaging patients. It is also about developing ways to overcome them.
For instance, many patients do not intentionally neglect their own healthcare needs. There are social and physical barriers that make it difficult to receive the necessary level of care. Patients who live in rural areas where there are no healthcare facilities or there is a lack of access to quality food are good examples of this.
The development of virtual visits and the wide availability of technology can circumvent this problem. Making healthcare more accessible to the patient who needs them is integral to effective patient engagement strategies. Many healthcare organizations have developed a patient portal on their website to make it easier for a patient to keep track of their treatment plan. They will be able to see essential information such as the types of medications, the dosage and frequency of medications, their next follow-up visit, etc. A patient portal makes it easier for patients to stay informed about their own care plan and to promote patient activation at the highest level.
6. Keep tracking the results of a patient engagement strategy.
You need to constantly strive to improve your patient engagement strategies. The health and medical industry is constantly evolving. Patient activation is at the heart of this to avoid unmet medical needs.
One of the best ways to do this is by keeping track of vital metrics in your system.
Patient satisfaction is one of the most valuable metrics to analyse as it is a good measure of healthcare quality. A patient’s satisfaction level reflects on the level of care given and if that care is appropriate to their needs. However, you need to be careful to make sure that you don’t just look at it in the broader picture. A patient can be angry and frustrated but it does not reflect on the patient engagement they received. Make sure to analyse other factors that could impact their overall experience, too.
To improve your patient engagement strategy, you must measure the following key aspects: the patient’s role in the decision-making of their treatment plan, the patient education in making that decision, and the proactive role they play in caring for their own health at home. Patient activation also reflects on the patient’s ability to stay in their care plan even under stress.
The care outcomes for the patient are one of the most significant indicators of an effective patient engagement strategy. Engaged patients make better lifestyle decisions that support the recommended treatment plan for their chronic disease or condition. They are also more likely to seek out preventive care measures to avoid complications or to prevent delayed care of their own health issues.
My Language Connection is a global language service provider. We are experts in medical, life science, and healthcare translations, helping organisations localise their communications to improve patient engagement.