A prescribed home exercise program (HEP) is a critical feature of any patient’s plan of care—one that greatly influences patient engagement. But, simply having an HEP in place doesn’t guarantee a boost in patient engagement. Furthermore, if your programs aren’t finely tuned, your patients may not feel encouraged to stay the rehabilitation course—assuming they perform their home exercises, period. So, what’s a therapist to do? Here’s how providers can use a well-planned HEP to improve patient engagement.
1. Make it Valuable
To encourage patients to follow their prescribed HEPs, providers first must sell them on the value of performing these exercises outside of the clinic. Getting your patients to adhere to their programs might feel a lot like convincing a student to complete his or her homework. Unless you were a really enthusiastic student, you probably hated homework. Some of your patients might feel the same way about having exercises to do at home. Many patients come to rehab therapy expecting to get better at your office—without any at-home effort on their part. So, take the time to set proper expectations and explain why HEPs are so valuable. However, value alone won’t convince all your patients to follow their HEPs if the programs are difficult to understand or complete, which brings me to my next point.
2. Make it Interactive
A recent HIMSS study explains that “a patient’s greater engagement in healthcare contributes to improved health outcomes, and information technologies can support engagement.” What does that mean for you? It’s time to stop using paper HEPs. Asking your patients to follow a sheet of black and white instructions with 2-D diagrams of their prescribed exercises is like trying to put together a piece of IKEA furniture: you’re probably not doing it right and will likely give up after five minutes of trying. Thankfully, paper isn’t your only option.
According to an article from KevinMD, a 2011 white paper from The Beryl Institute revealed that hospitals using interactive technology showed a 10% increase in general satisfaction and a more than 40% increase in satisfaction with educational materials (ya know, like an HEP). Here’s where an EMR can be quite handy. An interactive home exercise program—like the one WebPT offers—can help your patients get the most out of their treatment. Furthermore, an HEP that incorporates photos and videos of real people performing the exercises will help your patients feel confident in their form—ensuring their function continues to improve. Plus, you’ll spend more time actually treating your patients during their sessions—instead of retraining them on the prescribed exercises.
3. Make it Accessible
You know that each of your patients has unique needs, so a customizable HEP is crucial. But, you also should keep in mind that your patients are busy. Maybe they squeeze in those exercises at the office, after a workout, or on the sidelines at their kid’s football game. If your patients can access their HEPs anywhere, anytime, then they are far more likely to stay compliant—and satisfied.
An HEP can help your patients stay motivated to continue with their care—once they understand its value, of course—but not all HEPs are created equal. That’s why it’s important to provide your patients with interactive, flexible, consumer-minded HEPs. If your patients are engaged with their home exercise programs, they’ll be more engaged with their plans of care, thereby increasing patient satisfaction and improving patient outcomes. Know of other HEP best practices? Give us a shout in the comment section below.