Six Skill Sets Your Medical Assistants Need To Rock Patient Engagement | Geneia

Skill Sets Your Medical Assistants Need To Rock Patient Engagement

July 09, 2015
Patricia Ingerick, MBA, MSHS / Director of The Geneia Institute

Patient engagement. It’s a term you hear a lot today, but what does it mean and why is it important?

Patients who play an active role in managing their health and wellness are typically more healthy, more likely to seek preventive treatment and are more likely to take steps to manage their weight through diet and exercise.  Encouraging patients to become engaged in their health and wellness is one sure way for care providers to see the health status of their patient population improve—which is a becoming a requirement in today’s healthcare industry. Payments to care providers are shifting to be aligned to health status improvement as well as cost control for their patient population.

The Medical Assistant’s Dilemma Is Yours Too

Make no mistake, shifting a patient from unengaged to engaged is no easy task. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is there one path to patient engagement that will work for all patients. Communication is the primary mechanism through which a guiding care provider can help move the unengaged to become engaged.

Like with all types of communication, the way the message is presented by the sender can impact how the message is grasped and understood by the receiver. In many outpatient settings today, the Medical Assistant is the care team member charged with the communication aimed at engaging patients. But do they know how to communicate to patients to guide their engagement?

There are many factors to consider when guiding—not pushing—a patient to become engaged in the decision to improve their health and wellness. Two important factors are the patient’s health literacy level—the ability to understand and apply information about how treatments, behaviors and actions can impact their health—and their cultural background.

Without understanding the factors about the patient, the Medical Assistant may not be able to form relevant ideas for communicating with the patient.

Communicate to Motivate

Another critical aspect to patient engagement is the ability to leverage techniques associated with motivational interviewing. Commonly referred to as MI, motivational interviewing is a method to guide a patient through self-examination to determine their own motivation to change their health behaviors and the path they are willing to take to get there

Sounds like a big ‘ask’ of the Medical Assistant, but because they are generally most like the patients—aligned culturally, and living in the same communities—the Medical Assistant is often the best candidate for the role of patient engager. Unfortunately, many Medical Assistant programs do not focus on these ‘soft skills’ of patient communication and engagement

At The Geneia Institute we offer a six-lesson course targeted specifically to Medical Assistants to build their skills in patient engagement techniques. This self-paced, fully online e-Learning course is available during the month of July free of charge. Use our social icons on the left to share this article with key care team members to register directly for this free course.

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