Sunday, November 18, 2012

When do you start patient engagement?

Patient engagement doesn't start when the healthcare consumer enters your healthcare system for diagnosis, treatment and care. Patient engagement begins before they ever need medical care.

It has been a most interesting year of change for healthcare in 2012. The Supreme Court made its decision. The Presidential elections are over and healthcare reform is full speed ahead. Full speed ahead that is into the great unknown. A topsy-turvy world where the patient begins to assume more of the decision-making and involvement in their healthcare.

Individuals and families are facing more out-of-pocket expense too as employers shift the cost of care to employees. Ditto eveyone else for that matter too, government or private. When people pay more, they pay attention. Attention to the price. Attention to the experience. Attention to you. Attention to your marketing and brand.

And that means you have an opportunity. An opportunity to engage the patient in meaningful ways. Not about awards from third parties that you pay them to use, or HD TVs, or private rooms, or valet parking. That is just so 2000 and pejorative. Patients aren't idiots.

As you set your strategic marketing plans and tactical budgets for 2013, 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. It starts way before they ever seek medical treatment.

Here are nine patient engagement 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 if, 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.

Patients are moving from passive healthcare participants to active healthcare participants. That's why you engage them.

Don't engage, don't survive. It's really pretty simple now.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. He is founder of the michael J group, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to creating value through strategic marketing for hospitals and health system regardless of payment mechanism, either fee-for-service or value-based to increase market-share, revenue , brand and demonstrate actual return on marketing investment. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group.

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