Sunday, April 7, 2013

What can hospitals learn about patient engagement from specialty pharmacies?

As the pace of the evolving healthcare industry continues to accelerate, I was thinking the other day about what lessons in patient engagement from other healthcare industry segments could improve hospital patient engagement?  I define that as meaningful patent engagement for managing population health, changing health behaviors, keeping members in network in risk sharing agreements and improving the patient experience for value-based agreements seem to me to be mission critical business issues.

It occurred to me that specialty pharmacies have been engaging patients for a long time now, and there are lessons that could be applied to hospitals, and other healthcare providers as they learn how to meaningfully engage patients.

Special pharmacy by its very nature requires them to be highly engaged with the patients due to the nature of the drugs, dosage side effects, back box warnings, limited distribution, FDA adverse event reporting etc., but that doesn't mean that there are no lessons to be learned.

Lesson one: Reach out and touch someone. If you want a patient to be engaged you have to establish personal connection. That means a human connection all of the time, not just when the patient is in the hospital or the doctor's office. Without a human connection to the organization, engagement never has a chance.

Lesson two: Do what you tell the patient you are going to do right now. Saying you are going to take an action on a patient's behalf to call their doctor, send information, refer to an specialist, resolve a billing issue is right now not days later.

Lesson three: Invest in staff training so that when "reaching out and touching someone" it's done right the first time, every time. It's done with consistency and when it's not there is an immediate intervention to correct the situation. And I don't care of someone has been with you one week or 30 years. If they can't get it right when they engage a patient or coworker, they have to go.

Lesson four: The same high standards you have for interaction with patients are the same high standards you have for your employees interacting with one another. That means the right training, creating the right culture and having the right performance measurement. If your employees are not engaged and happy, then your patients can never be engaged and happy.

Lesson five: Computerize the encounter. Not just scripting but an integrated approach using current patient medical information utilizing branching logic in response to questions and follow-ups. It is not only more effective and efficient, but can enhance the encounter medically, personally and result in better outcomes

Lesson six: The same person interacts with the patient on a regular basis. Constant turnover of changing  someone interacts with destroys any potential for engagement. It creates uncertainty, doubt, fear and is negative because the patient feels that "And I have to tell my whole story again?" anxiety. People go on vacation, take days off, get ill, and life happens. Patient's get that. It's all the organizational stuff that you have to keep from getting in the way to reduce your turnover.

Lesson seven: Understand who you are taking too, what they want from you, and how they want the engagement to take place will define to a great extent your engagement strategy. Patient engagement is a one-on-one personal encounter, and one size does not fit all. Yes you have process and systems, but they need to be adaptable, and ever-changing.

There are more of course, but these are the seven lessons I thought are most important in transferring knowledge on patient engagement from one segment of the healthcare industry to another.

Meaningfully enagage or be left behind.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pheed.

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