What does a Patient Engagement Officer do?

A patient engagement officer is a new occupation in the healthcare industry, and its main purpose is to include patients in the development of new products and services. In the past, advances in healthcare have come almost entirely from the supply side, but many doctors and healthcare business administrators are pushing for more patient inclusion in the treatment they receive.

There has been direct customer outreach in the pharmaceutical industry, which has had years of success marketing drugs without relying on healthcare providers to promote them. Many doctors and healthcare executives believe that other medical products and services won’t reach their full potential without the same customer engagement, so entire departments of hospitals are starting to receive the funding to accomplish this goal.

How to Become Involved in Patient Engagement

Because this field is just getting started, most universities don’t have programs dedicated to it yet, but a degree in medical and health services management or healthcare administration is a good path to take. Healthcare executives must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field, and master’s degrees are common in this industry.

Aside from knowledge of the healthcare and insurance industries, communication skills are the most important skills to have in this profession. Marketing, sales and business skills are also important because a patient engagement officer is responsible for developing this previously untapped area in business-to-consumer healthcare sales.

The overall goal of this profession is to allow the so-called invisible hand of the market to dictate which products and services succeed and which ones are discarded. Many healthcare administrators who support an open market in which consumers can choose the treatment and care that best suits them are pessimistic about the Affordable Care Act, but others say that the new laws are paving the way for patients to become more active in the care they receive.

Salary and Employment Outlook

In general, healthcare administration is growing much faster than average for all occupations in the U.S. economy. Over the next ten years, jobs are expected to increase by 23 percent, compared to the average of about 11 percent. The healthcare industry on the whole is expected to provide an increasing number of jobs as the average age of the population increases and requires additional care. As more of the decisions about medical services are made by consumers, patient engagement officers will be more in demand.

The median annual income for all medical and health services managers was $88,580 in 2012, and the top-earning 10 percent earned at least $150,560 per year. In general, the larger the facility in which a healthcare administrator works, the higher his or her income will be. For example, managers working in small clinics with fewer than 7 doctors earned a median salary of $87,862 in 2012, while managers in practices with up to 25 doctors earned about $126,478, according to the Medical Group Management Association. Because patient engagement is funded by large hospitals and healthcare service providers, engagement officers will tend to earn higher salaries, although these positions will most likely go to experienced managers while this field is new.

The changing healthcare industry offers a wealth of opportunities for patient engagement, and the increasing demand for medical services provides many opportunities for employment in healthcare administration. If you have a passion for marketing, communication and healthcare, consider a career as a patient engagement officer.