How to Increase Patient Compliance/Engagement

So you’re a healthcare provider. You want your patients to stay on track and commit to their health plan—but sometimes it can be hard to get patients on the same page.

The first step is to make a conscious effort to motivate patients. Generally, this means keeping in contact with them outside the office.

No, you don’t want to be overbearing. Yes, you’ll want to set boundaries (and avoid sending or responding to patient emails in the middle of the night, for instance).

Fortunately, if your goal is to communicate with patients in a warm yet efficient manner, there are a number of digital channels to choose from. Consider the following motivational healthcare communication checklist:

1. Email communication

You and your team should provide guidance and encourage patients to make positive changes. This is a given. It also means offering empathy, motivational tips, and health strategies in your written communication.

Email, with patient consent, is a great place to start in that you can tailor your messaging to the patient. If the patients’ health plan focuses on nutrition, for instance, you can curate your email to their condition or goals. You already know about their health history, including any restrictions they might be facing.

Of course, email communication can be time-consuming—but it doesn’t have to be. One physician at Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston claims to spend just two minutes drafting each patient email.1

It’s also worth noting that your emails can be automated. “Automating empathy” is a relatively new concept that involves doctors—you guessed it—automating their messaging to better connect with patients.2

Healthcare practitioners can send daily, weekly, or monthly emails with details involving the patients’ health or recovery plan. They might ask patients for feedback on certain issues they face, offer general reminders and tips, or request a brief response to a care question.2

Frequent check-ins are a great tool to see how patients are doing between appointments.2 Increased patient motivation is an added bonus—and so is the ability to determine who is doing well and who might need a bit of extra care.2

Healthcare providers and patients alike should keep in mind that email should complement rather than replace in-person visits. That said, connecting on a consistent basis can serve as a reminder for patients to consult (and follow) their treatment plan.1,2

2. Messaging services

Messaging services and apps play an important role in modern telehealth, as they help to improve communication and care coordination between the patient and the healthcare team.3 Chatbots and other services also support patients in their effort to self-manage their care.3

How do these services work? Most healthcare messaging services consist of a multiplatform software application that allows users to send text messages, upload photos, and engage in conversation.4 Patients may or may not be conversing directly with their physician, although they’ll certainly be in contact with a member of their healthcare team.4

Why might providers choose messaging services when they already use email? When it comes to patient communication, messaging apps offer a number of benefits.5 These include:

  • Enhanced security and encryption

Most healthcare messaging apps are HIPAA-compliant and highly secure.4 Copies of messages are not kept on routing servers, nor can they be intercepted using public Wi-Fi.4 Since these platforms are encrypted, only authorized users can access them with their verified username and password.4 Healthcare messaging apps represent a safe and private solution; however, it is best to confirm when choosing the right app for your office.

  • Additional features

Whether you run a small practice or work at a large healthcare organization, the many features—and the ease of use—of messaging services may well appeal to you.4 These features include the ability to invite third parties to a discussion thread, seamless file and image sharing, and real-time conversation concerning the patient’s health plan.4 This allows decisions to be made quickly and in a secure fashion.4

  • Improved patient engagement

Not only can the patient receive next-level remote healthcare via messaging services, but these apps can also improve patient productivity.4,5 While research is relatively limited at this point, early studies show that telehealth services like messaging apps tend to motivate patients and even make them more likely to adhere to their treatment plan.4,5

3. Social media

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube encourage real-time communication and collaboration—including in a healthcare setting.6,7 Many providers use social networks, blogs, and other media to connect with patients and the overall healthcare community.6

Of course, it’s best to proceed with caution on social media. Since privacy and confidentiality are paramount, practitioners should refrain from sharing anything patient-related on social platforms without patients’ express written permission.6 Similarly, providers should never reach out to a patient on a social network unless the patient has done so first.6 Even then, you might suggest another approach to continue the discussion; it is best to discuss how best to implement these digital solutions with your legal team first.

If it sounds like there’s a great deal of risk involved in using social media for healthcare communication, that’s because there is.6 However, platforms like Facebook and YouTube can be very informative.6 They are ideal for sharing relevant educational resources—say, a recent study on weight management strategies—community events, and other opportunities for the patient to better connect with others.6

Social media can also be used to promote specific health behaviors. If your clinic decides to challenge patients to a month of healthy eating, for example, Facebook or Instagram posts can outline the initiative and bring community members closer together.7 Similarly, a series of doctor interviews can be posted to YouTube to better motivate patients.7

Patients and providers should simply remember that social media serves a different purpose than email and messaging services.7 Providers should focus on sharing rather than discussing in this format and avoid breaching patient confidentiality at all costs.

Ultimately, each of the three abovementioned communication channels serves a unique purpose. Combined, these communication checklist items can help healthcare providers better engage and support their patients while they work toward their wellness goals.

For more information on health management and general wellness topics, please visit the Metagenics blog.


1. Holmes L. The Pros and Cons of Emails Between Doctor and Patients. Verywell Health. Accessed August 6, 2019.
2. Ostrov BF. Automated empathy allows doctors to check on patients daily. CNN. Accessed August 6, 2019.
3. Mayo Clinic Staff. Telehealth: Technology meets health care. Mayo Clinic. Accessed August 6, 2019.
4. HIPAA Journal Staff. Healthcare Messaging App. HIPAA Journal. Accessed August 6, 2019.
5. Kannisto KA et al. Use of mobile phone text message reminders in health care services: a narrative literature review. J Med Internet Res. 2014;16(10):e222. 
6. George DR et al. Dangers and opportunities for social media in medicine. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2013;56(3):453–462.
7. Ventola CL. Social media and health care professionals: benefits, risks, and best practices. P T. 2014;39(7):491–520.

Submitted by the Metagenics Team

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