1. Create Patient Segments
All patients have different needs and diagnoses. Creating patient segments involves clustering all patients with similar conditions and needs within the same group. Creating patient groups can help you as a therapist to better understand patient needs and draw insight into the type of treatment that may work best. It can also help you create targeted strategies that will help you deliver better care to the individual groups. For instance, you can create a segment of patients with upper extremity mobility issues and another group for patients with lower extremity mobility issues instead of clustering them together. This will help patients gain peer support and community with other patients who understand their struggle.
2. Educate Patients
Education is a big part of patient engagement. Consider this; a patient walks into a medical facility for an appointment. They have no idea what’s going on with their body, only that they are experiencing different symptoms, and they are not well. They consult with a doctor and immediately receive a prescription for a medicine they are not familiar with, lifestyle adjustment recommendations they don’t understand, and a “get well soon.” This patient is more likely to disengage in their treatment and give up due to a lack of understanding. A patient with better knowledge of the prescribed medication and recommendations, in comparison, is more likely to follow the recommendations.
The American Journal of Medicine reports that 50% of patients with chronic diseases fail to benefit from treatment as a result of poor compliance which stems from low treatment understanding.  Lack of compliance normally leads to more hospitalizations, poor clinical outcomes, and reduced quality of life, making it essential to engage patients in order to increase compliance levels. A 2005 study reported that patients who received education materials were more compliant to treatment compared to those who did not receive educational materials. This resulted in more treatment satisfaction, increased communication with healthcare providers, and better outcomes. 
When educating patients, it is important to use clear language that your patients can easily understand. You can use handouts, website portals, and a teach-back method as part of your education strategies.
3. Involve Patients in Decision Making
One of the main areas that patients value in their interaction with physical therapists is shared decision-making. While they may not be vocal about it, research has shown that patients have better treatment outcomes when they are involved in decision-making.  I think we can agree that nobody likes being told what to do, but when involved in the decision-making process, we feel seen, heard, and considered. This applies to your patient interactions as well. While you may be the expert in the room, the patient is the expert on their routines, preferences, and body. Involving them in the treatment decisions will help you come up with better solutions that are suited to their individual situations.
A Mayo Clinic study showed that hospital admissions were reduced by 19% when they implemented a patient decision-making program. The researchers reported that the decision-making tool helped provide better care and improved clinical outcomes.  You can incorporate shared decision-making in your patient sessions by:
- Educating your patients about available options and how they play out in the patient’s lifestyle.
- Discuss goals and values with your patient.
- Deciding on treatment with your patient.
Before utilizing shared decision-making, it is important to understand your patient’s preference toward shared decision-making and involve them accordingly. You can use available shared decision-making tools like statin choice, PCI choice, or Rheumatoid arthritis choice, among others. Shared decision-making for physical therapists might involve selecting the best therapy exercises together with your patient.
4. Deliver Continuous Care
Patient care doesn’t end when a patient receives their prescription and walks out of your office. Continuous care (ongoing supervision) should be part of your patient encounters until they learn how to take care of themselves in a sustainable and healthy way. According to research, continuous patient care contributes to increased patient satisfaction and decreased hospital visits. It is also associated with an increase in preventative care. This can go a long way, especially for patients who suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes. According to a 2016 study, continuous care was reported to help patients with diabetes reduce their medical costs and health complications. 
Continuous care outside of your therapy sessions will help the patient maintain their improvement trajectory and also keep them ready for subsequent therapy sessions.
5. Simplify Medical Information
A major component of patient education (seen above) is simplifying information. Medical information can be complex, especially for people with no medical background. This is one of the biggest obstacles healthcare professionals must overcome when dealing with patient engagement.
It is extremely important to use simple language that the patient and caregiver understands. According to a study done by the National Institute of health, family caregivers deal with more healthcare issues than the patients because they are in charge of administering medication and other treatments.  This can be taxing if the caregiver doesn’t understand the information provided by the doctor. This makes it crucial to tailor your communication to the health literacy of your patient/caregiver. Avoid using medical jargon that may be confusing when giving instructions. When teaching your patient, remove as many medical terms as possible, replacing them with common language or explaining what the medical term means.
6.Use Images and Charts When Communicating
Visual aids are one of the amazing tools you can use in your practice in order to simplify information. They are also great as they are more memorable compared to written text. Visual aids can be in the form of images, diagrams, and videos. For instance, when conducting physical therapy, you could show your patient a diagram of the structures within the body and how the therapy treatment will affect them. Many home exercise programs include pictures or videos to help the patient recall what to do at home.
7. Do Not Make Assumptions When Communicating with Patients
It’s easy to assume that patients understand because you already know the information you are sharing with them. However, the concepts you are sharing may be unfamiliar to them. Additionally, their understanding of the information is shaped by their beliefs and backgrounds as opposed to science. This makes it essential to make sure that they accurately understand what you share with them from a scientific perspective.
8. Start Engagement Before a Patient Arrives
Gone are the days when you had to wait for patients to walk through the door in order to start engaging with them. With the advancement of technology, you can begin engaging with your patient before their appointment. You can use pre-visit tactics like appointment reminders and intake forms to start engaging with your patients before consultations. This will help them prepare accordingly and help you understand critical information about your patient that can help you prepare for the consultation session.
9. Stay Engaged Throughout Aftercare
Aftercare is follow-up care given to a patient after hospitalization or after a major procedure. Aftercare is an essential period for patients because this is the period when treatment really takes place. However, most patients ignore and misunderstand aftercare instructions which can lead to more complications and readmittance. According to one study, non-adherence to aftercare instructions can be up to 70%, especially if they are complex or demand a lifestyle change.  This normally leads to poor outcomes and even death in some cases. It is reported that there are approximately 125,000 deaths/year resulting from complications encountered as a result of non-adherence.
This makes it important for healthcare providers to simplify aftercare instructions and to follow up to ensure that patients stick to the recommended treatment. This can be through scheduled phone calls, emails, or texts.
10. Use Preferred Patient Channels
When improving patient engagement, it is recommended that you meet patients where they are, and this involves making an active commitment to reach out to them either before or after treatment. In order to do this effectively, it is recommended that you use their preferred communication channel. Potential channels you can use include: Whatsapp, email, phone, text, zoom, and patient portals. The list is endless here, but the most important thing is using a channel that the patient is comfortable engaging in.