Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are You Ready for Patient Engagement in 2012?

It has been a most interesting year of change for healthcare in 2011. Medical Homes, final regulations on ACOs, patient- centered or centric care focus, payment models beginning to move from production of care to payment for quality care and at least in some places, a growing understanding of the importance of healthcare marketing and branding. But, none of this will be successful unless you have an engaged patient.

In anticipation of still more change and continued progression to a fully reformed healthcare model, (regardless of what the Supreme Court of the United Sates rules), healthcare will never be the same. And it hinges in large part, on an engaged patient. Engaged in diagnosis and treatment. Engaged in wellness. Engaged in health plan selection. Engaged like they have never been before.

As you set your strategic marketing plans and tactical budgets for 2012, a key component is how you will begin to engage the patient, aka healthcare consumer. And it's not just wellness programs, seminars, community events or material copied on bright neon paper. It takes strategy, commitment and learning.

Here are nine strategies you need to employ:

1. Integrate your engagement solutions. That means information is delivered seamlessly to patients, so that they can interact with you any way they want, when they want too.

2. Marketing should be using both push and pull messaging. Messaging needs to be relevant to the patient at the point in time that they need it. Personalized, customized, aware of the cultural heritage and influences tailored to them.

3. Patient incentives and motivational techniques will be needed to keep patient engaged. That doesn't mean cash. Look to the gaming industry for gaming technology and gaming prediction, for ways to engage without cash. Be creative. Look outside healthcare for ideas, tools and techniques to engage. After all, patients are people too.

4.Create a sense of community. You have to compete for patients, especially if you are forming an ACO or employing physicians. You need to feed the beast. You have to get into the inner circle of your audiences and become the trusted advisor. It's not just about loyalty. You need to shape patient behaviors to the point where they will recommend you.

5. Know your audience and with who you are speaking too. This is really back-to-basics CRM understanding. Gender, age, integration of risk assessments, culture etc. You cannot engage the patient unless you are intimately knowledgeable about them, their needs and how to tailor the information they need to engage them.

6. Test and measure. This is no time to be reactive. You have to know how to approach patients and engage them, You don't have the answers. The only way to can figure out if it's working is to test and measure in a very methodical way.

7. Fast Failure. We live in a world of technology and you need to run a multifaceted, highly integrated campaign. With web, text messaging, mobile messaging, QR codes etc, if you structure it appropriately, and this is a big and, you are testing and measuring, you will know if it's working or not. If your marketing model is not working, get out. Get out quickly and allocate those resources elsewhere. Failure is successful because you learn from it. Fail fast.

8. Know the influence of the patients culture on behavior to engage them. You need to know who the individual is culturally, their affinity groups, and religious beliefs to name just a few items, beyond gender and age.

9. Time it right and add value. If you health messaging is not resonating with the patient when they receive it, then you have lost them. Communicate relevant messages to a committed patient right before healthcare decisions are made. That means knowing the patient like you have never known them in the past. For example, a patient or healthcare consumer, going to a restaurant to eat, or a supermarket to purchase groceries, means sending them health messages at that time, in order to enable them to make the right food choices. It's not impossible.

You are moving patients from passive healthcare participants to active healthcare participants. That's why you engage them. Time to get started.

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1 comment:

Scott Zimmermen said...

Great post, Michael. I agree that patient engagement is essential. At TeleVox, we’re making caring for patients between doctor visits as easy as writing a prescription. In fact, we’ve just released a study ( revealed eight out of ten (83%) people across the nation admit they don’t follow treatment plans they have been given by their doctor exactly as prescribed. Healthcare professionals are not quite as forgiving. They only give 1 in 20 patients (5%) an “A” grade for following treatment plans to the letter.

Healthcare providers must engage patients between visits with information that will help them understand the state of their health and their personal role in becoming healthier. Regular communications offering information, encouragement and ‘just-in-time’ reminders will help patients stick with treatment plans between appointments. It’s no longer enough to prescribe a treatment plan and tell patients to change their lifestyle during their regular appointments. If physicians want their patients to make positive behavior changes for a healthier life, they need to become an active part of their patients’ daily lives.

Our study revealed that healthcare professionals believe with the proper motivation and coaching the majority of their patients (80%) will take the necessary steps to do what's required to become healthy. Patients agree. Of the people who feel they could better follow their prescribed treatment plans, nearly half (42%) said they would be more successful if they received information and encouragement from their doctors between visits to stay on course. And, more than one-third (35%) said they could improve their routine of following doctors’ instructions if they received reminders from their doctors via email, voicemail or text telling them to do something specific, like exercise or take medication.

Additionally, I agree – a one-size fits all approach doesn’t work. I encourage healthcare providers to use this study to better understand how to interact with a variety of different types of patients.

For example, we’ve learned that men require a different type of interaction with their physicians than do women. Women have a tendency to focus on taking care of others before they take care of themselves. They need a doctor who constantly reminds them to take time for themselves and make their own health a priority so they can be the best mothers, friends and partners possible. Men, on the other hand, tend to be “pleasers.” When they are able to please, they feel like winners. However, if men continually come up against a physician who tells them they aren’t doing enough, they will eventually quit trying to satisfy and will rebel. Men thrive on appreciation for their accomplishments—big and small. They don’t want doctors who try to fix their health problems, rather they prefer physicians who support them along the way and boost their confidence.

This is just one example; the study dives into a variety of patient demographics and offers suggestions for the best way to interact with a variety of different types of patients.

As healthcare providers plan for 2012, I hope you find this information useful.

All the best,
Scott Zimmerman, president,