Monday, April 27, 2015

Are you an engaged patient or healthcare consumer?

More of a rhetorical question, the other day I was wondering with all the engagement  and experience effort underway, if I  am engaged at any level by my insurance plan or healthcare provider? Putting my marketing hat aside, and looking at the question from a patient’s viewpoint, I have to say the answer is no.

I am not engaged either as a healthcare consumer or former patient by a large IDN at any meaningful level.  I have actually had better engagement from my PBM. At least they call every 90 days to let me know it’s time to refill. It is a major challenge and obstacle that hospitals face as healthcare becomes retail and healthcare consumer driven in nature on how to engage.

Engagement is human-to-human

Let me repeat, engagement is a human-to-human undertaking. It is not a piece of disease state literature.  It is not a generic newsletter sent monthly with topics that I have no interest in. It’s a meaningful interaction that is a two-way conversation about my health status, needs and options.   A dialogue that is ongoing, not one time.

Patient engagement or really any type of engagement for that matter is a mutually beneficial conversation that is structured to meet the healthcare needs of the individual.  It can take many forms to fit the engagement style of the patient or healthcare consumer.  The implication here is that it is highly individualized.   

In marketing we call that mass customization.  That is, information that can be shared with a large population or group of people that appears in nature to the individual to be highly personalized.  But all of the engagement drives essentially the same outcome, to increase knowledge, to make better choices, to empower decision-making, to create brand loyalty and drive revenue. And that engagement effort is delivered across multiple mediums and channels that the targeted individuals desire to receive the information.

Past engagement styles and efforts do not meet today’s healthcare consumer’s needs in a retail consumer driven medical market.

This is not insurmountable, but it does take vision, commitment, resources and change. The healthcare consumer and patient lives and reacts to a world that is omni-channel in nature.  They move freely between phone, email, mobile and desktop etc., expecting the engagement and experience to be seamless and available at any time of their choosing.

For some that may be a newsletter delivered by email with a text to their cell phone informing that new information is available. Others may desire the information to be delivered as a simple text link to the information on a personalized web page. Others may prefer mobile app accessibility. Some may respond better to gamification and rewards. Still other may prefer hard copies.

And in some situations, it may be a personal phone call because the healthcare consumer or patient wants a true one-to-one engagement and experience. It could even be all of the above.  But in any event, the engagement experience is tailored to meet their needs.

So in a back to basics kind of way, it is completely customer focused and starts with how the patient, healthcare consumer or population wants to be engaged and how. Enter a lot of primary market research for the hospital to find those nuggets of information that are actionable for moving forward and engaging the healthcare consumer or patient.

Though David Ogilvy said this in relationship to the advertising industry “Advertisers who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals”, does apply today to hospitals and health systems on so many levels, and in so many ways as the market evolves into a retail medical environment.

The time between understanding and action in healthcare consumer or patient engagement is now measured in minutes, not days, months or when one gets around to it. Notoriously slow in adapting is to new technologies and trends; hospitals need to stop doing what they have always done in engagement.

Think of one's personal experience as a healthcare consumer or patient.  Are you engaged? If not then the patients in the hospital aren't either.

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