Nurse-led patient support provides one-to-one assistance for patients. This can range from education and help in understanding and accepting a new and potentially life-changing diagnosis, through learning treatment techniques, to monitoring outcomes. This kind of support helps to improve patient knowledge and engagement, and could have the potential to improve patient outcomes over the long term. However, there is one key factor to consider — a nurse can only be in one place at any one time. Adding-in other forms of engagement in-between nurse touchpoints enhance, amplifies and extends the nurse's support, and keeps the idea of learning about – and managing – their disease uppermost in patients' minds. These additional forms of engagement, described as multi-channel support, can take a variety of guises:
- Digital support – web pages, phone and tablet apps
- Print and hardcopy – information sheets, magazines
- Videos – demonstrations, patient stories
- Support – carers, community groups, patient groups
Multi-channel support begins with enrolment of patients, and collection of baseline data from each individual. This can be used, with the help of the nurse, to tailor the program to the patient, and set goals that will meet both the patient's and the physician's needs. Tracking the patient's status throughout the program creates datasets that can be used to change the goals or modify the program.
Why does multi-channel support work?
People learn and absorb information in different ways, however, as a general rule, two weeks after reading or hearing information or seeing pictures, we only remember up to a third of that information. However, after seeing a video or a live demonstration, we remember up to a half. And if we are involved in the activity,we will remember up to 90% of the information. This supports the use of multi-channel engagement, such as:
- Seeing – reading printed documents and brochures
- Seeing and hearing – watching videos, including patient experiences
- Seeing, hearing and doing – creating and working through action plans
- Seeing and doing – using symptom trackers and text reminder services
- Hearing and doing – face-to-face and telephone counselling
Using multi-channel engagement to complement nurse-led support
There are four ways that multi-channel engagement adds to nurse-led support. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it enhances the patient experience by allowing the nurse and the patient to work together, with the help of other healthcare professionals, to tailor the patient support program to the individual's needs. This can be through one-to-one conversations, by monitoring the patients' outcomes and responses to treatment in real time, or tracking survey responses and use of websites and apps. Patients who are comfortable using technology can also create their own digital profiles to select when they receive texts, emails or reminders. Different patients will respond to different forms of support, and so the balance needs to be tailored to fit the patients' needs.
Secondly, multichannel engagement can extend the timeframe for patient support beyond the end of a nurse-led program and extend accessibility for patients, for example those who live in very rural areas.
Thirdly, multi-channel programs can improve communication between patients and healthcare professionals, by providing resources for both nurses and patients. As an example, understanding how a patient is responding to treatment through real time data can help the nurse and healthcare professional to tailor the engagement program, and create action plans for the patient to work through between contacts.
And finally, combining nurse-led and multi-channel engagement can provide a cost-effective solution for companies, increasing the number of touchpoints without employing additional nurses, and helping to ensure a return on investment.