Sunday, April 27, 2014

Is social media the next level of patient engagement?

It’s a demanding healthcare consumer and patient out there.  Active in social media, they are used to being engaged across a wide spectrum of industries on their terms. So why should that be so different in healthcare?

Smart phones, tablets and applications are ruling the day and virtually no age segment is immune from that transformation of how they are engaged by organizations. How a hospital and health system as well as physicians engage patents and the growing healthcare consumer in the form of the newly insured, dictates the effective and efficient use of social media as part and parcel of the engagement strategy.

For example, the family went to dinner at Chili’s. I decided to check in with 4 Square. I have done that before but this time was different. I received the usual offer for a free salsa and chips appetizer for checking in as a thank you. But that’s when it became different and the engagement went to a different level.  

Next thing I know, I receive a message via twitter, asking me what looks good to me tonight on the menu? So I replied with the order but that I was substituting some items for a healthier meal.  Which elicited a reply response that sounds good with a smiley face icon.  And that got me thinking about social media engagement and healthcare.

So what really happened here? Social media is about a meaningful dialogue and an exchange of information. Chili’s meet that requirement. Regardless that the response was automated they still managed to engage me in a different way from the last time and enhanced my experience.  From a big data perspective and market research avenue, they also learned what menu items are of interest and how diners substitute.

There is a couple to things about this for healthcare and healthcare consumer or patient engagement.

When an individual checks in on 4 Square at a site of care there should be an acknowledgement with a response of welcome. Additionally, use this opportunity for a system generated message that pops up on the 4 Square screens that is positive about the location of care. One can bet that there are already plenty of negative messages out there already.

Now is the place and time for engaging the individual via Twitter. Are you there for care or visiting someone? Depending on the answer if visiting, then a reminder to visit the gift shop for flowers or other items that night make someone feel better.  Or if seeking care, messages that we hope your experience meets your expectations and let us know if there is anything that can be done to make the care experience better. But do it all in 140 characters.

One has now engaged the healthcare consumer or patient; started a meaningful dialogue; and is gathering useful experience data for experience process improvement.

Later today I will be going to a major area hospital to visit a relative. A hospital where my wife and children have received care on occasion and  where I was admitted for 23 hour observation for evaluation for cardiac event, which turned out to be not the case.

Each and every time I have used 4 Square to check in. Today won’t be any different.  And the social media silence won’t be any different from the hospital either. They still do not know who I am or how to engage me, and that is the wrong message to send in a healthcare environment that is moving to a semi-retail model to be sending to one whom has choice.  

That just screams we don’t know who you are and don't care.

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