What Is Patient Activation And Why Is It Important In Physical Therapy?

Feb 5, 2024 | Blog, Front Desk, Healthcare

A 2013 meta-study on patient activation confirms that patient activation leads to better patient outcomes. Patients who are “activated” are more likely to meet their medical needs, actively seek information about their condition, and report more positive patient experiences than less activated patients.

In physical therapy, the provider isn’t the only one who paves the way to recovery — the patient must also act to ensure that treatment goals are met. With 51% of patients said to have “unreasonable expectations” of their recovery, according to a 2023 article published on PatientEngagementHIT.com, PT providers must be bent to activate their patients to achieve full recovery.

But what is patient activation, and why is it important in physical therapy? Here’s everything that you need to know:

What Is Patient Activation?

Patient activation refers to the overall ability of the patient to manage their healthcare, typically based on their provider’s diagnosis and recommendations. It involves their knowledge, expertise, self-confidence, and inclination to be more active in modifying their lifestyle for better health.

Increasing patient activation involves encouraging patients (i.e., “activating” them) to be active and take steps in their treatment.

Each member of your staff plays a vital role in activating your patients. For instance:

  • Physical therapists administer the treatment and explain the patient’s progression to complete treatment.
  • Care coordinators provide patients with a course of action to expedite treatment based on their medical history and other patient information.
  • Front desk staff greet patients, answer questions, and schedule appointments based on their availability and preference.

Importance Of Patient Activation In Physical Therapy

Patient outcomes in physical therapy rely on the provider’s expertise and the patient’s lifestyle changes. With the latter, the success of the treatment is greatly improved.

Thus, patient activation is vital to clinical success in physical therapy. Here are three ways patient activation benefits physical therapy practices:

1. Increases patient satisfaction

A 2008 study on patient activation in physical therapy found that patient activation has a 53% correlation with participation and a 75% correlation with engagement. Patients with low activation showed hopelessness and a lack of self-efficacy.

On the other hand, activated patients are more confident about participating in their treatment. As a result, they become more attentive to their progress with the intervention of their providers.

This means that patients with high activation are also delighted as they have a firmer grasp and appreciation of the treatment they receive at your clinic.

2. Develops effective patient-provider communication

Proactive patient-provider communication is a vital component of achieving successful treatment. Providers should engage in active patient-centered care to instruct, listen, and adapt to the needs of their patients. On the other hand, patients must self-report in great detail to convey as much information as possible to their providers.

Hence, patient activation is crucial to foster effective patient-provider communication. When the provider and the patient share vital information proactively, you can achieve your clinical goals efficiently.

3. Decreases patient dropouts

Patients with low activation but unreasonable expectations are likely to drop out of treatment. They’re quick to point out the lack of visible progress or overestimate the speed of their recovery.

Activating your patients can help decrease patient dropouts. When your patients are active in their treatment, they gain a more realistic and positive outlook on their recovery.

How To Effectively Activate Your Patients In Physical Therapy

Activating your patients involves making them pursue their recovery proactively. Patient activity goes beyond giving them instructions, however. It’s about helping them understand the importance of their treatment plan so they can be encouraged to pursue it actively.

There are several ways to activate your patients. Here are a few practical examples to get you started:

  • Communicate actively. Encourage them to ask about treatment options, insurance eligibility, and other concerns.
  • Use simple, straightforward language. Complex technical jargon can discourage patients from pursuing treatment as they may need help understanding its importance.
  • Send patient reminders regularly. Reach out to your patients via text or email to remind them about an upcoming appointment, relay lifestyle instructions, or share educational materials about the treatment process.

Patient Activation Equals Patient Success

Physical therapy success is a two-way street involving the patient and the provider. Providers must have the expertise to diagnose, treat, and recommend patient changes. At the same time, patients should be able to seek information, self-report sufficiently, and pursue their treatment goals independently.

However, this can only happen when your providers nudge them into action. That’s why patient activation is essential in physical therapy — it ensures long-term recovery and satisfaction for the patient while gaining their trust in your practice.

Another way to activate patients is to facilitate a consistent patient experience and improve the patient intake process through a front desk that is always available. Discover the power of live virtual receptionists through WelcomeWare!

Activate your patients from the moment they enter your clinic

Empower your receptionists with WelcomeWare to begin patient activation from the front desk

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