Patient Education Programs: Time for health class? Fill Seats and Improve Outcomes

June 10, 2020 | Carenet Health

As patients think and act as consumers, they have increased responsibility for their own health and for learning behaviors to promote and support it. Many seek health education to fill the gaps. Is your health system filling all the seats in its health classes—including face-to-face and virtual ones? Do you have systems to tailor patient outreach or facilitate self-registration? Making sure seats are filled and patients are satisfied can help improve health outcomes and simultaneously reduce costs and increase reimbursement.

Whether it's online information, classes, or an in-person group discussing health concerns with members of specific populations or communities, health systems are increasingly employing health education programs to promote strategies that improve the health of individuals and communities and that link their organization with the communities they serve.

Not Just a Class You Took in Middle School

Yes, many of us were first introduced to health class in middle school. But healthy habits are built over a lifetime, and health education is an ongoing endeavor. Today's health systems offer a wide variety of classes in an array of formats – single event classes, health series, and more—both in-person and online.

Class topics range from chronic disease management to maternal and infant health, tobacco use and substance abuse as well as education on diet, exercise, and medications. Many health entities, as part of their patient education programs, also offer special events such as health screenings (e.g. blood pressure and cancer screenings) and proper car seat installation for new parents or grandparents.

Participants report that they learn a lot from classes and events and especially enjoy interaction with others. For many, health classes become a support group of sorts where members of specific populations or communities can discuss health concerns with others sharing similar experiences.

The Rise of Health Educators

With the growing array of classes and services, employment of health educators is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 20281, a rate that is greater than average across all occupations. Growth is coming from efforts to improve health outcomes and to reduce healthcare costs by teaching patients, their families, and other caregivers healthy behaviors—while also explaining how to access available healthcare services.

Health educators may work one-on-one with patients or with their families. They teach patients about their diagnoses and about any necessary treatments or procedures. Some organizations call these individuals patient navigators because they help consumers understand their health options and direct people to additional resources such as support groups or home health agencies.

Successful health education teams perform a wide variety of valuable activities such as:

  • Assessing the health needs of the patients and communities they serve
  • Developing programs, materials, and events to teach health topics
  • Examining trends in behaviors and health outcomes
  • Collecting data and report findings to healthcare providers
  • Providing informal counseling and social support
  • Conducting outreach programs
  • Advocating for improved health resources and policies that promote health

But with all of these valuable activities vying for a team's time, it's important not to overlook promoting and filling classes. Improving the consumer experience, which includes enhancing communications, is a top priority for 81% of U.S. hospitals and health systems. Yet, only 11% rate their capabilities high in this area2. Health systems that tailor patient outreach and promotion based on patient demographics, medical history, service line, location, etc. fare better than those who don't.

Today's healthcare consumers expect a convenient way to search, register, and pay for classes and events. Plus reminding patients of upcoming classes and events through live voice, direct mail, and digital communications is a necessity to ensure they take action on their intent.

Strengthen Your Patient Education Programs

Ultimately, health education attracts new patients and builds patient loyalty—both of which help increase revenue for the health system. Health education programs also help with population health initiatives and help patients avoid or reduce unnecessary healthcare spending while improving their overall health outcomes.

If your health system is looking to strengthen its health education offerings and fill both in-person and online classes, our patient engagement platform offers multiple solutions that can help:

  • Stericycle Health & Wellness Campaigns can help you conduct customized promotional campaigns for your classes and event via live voice, direct mail, and digital communications – helping to educate patients, engage them in their health, and promote patient action.
  • Stericycle Intelligent Scheduling can help patients search for and book classes and events by category, facility, or zip code as well as date and time. Plus, you can collect payment, add discount codes, and send text and email confirmations. Learn more.
  • Stericycle Communication & Reminders combines automated messaging and live voice interactions to send class and event reminders and broadcast messages to participants.  The right blend of content, channel, and cadence can help drive appropriate patient actions, reduce no-shows, increase patient loyalty, and grow revenue.

Learn more about our industry-leading Intelligent Scheduling.

2 Kaufman Hall Healthcare Consumerism Index 2019

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