Monday, January 11, 2016

Patient engagement or patient relationship, can you have one without the other?

As 2016 comes more into focus, patient engagement and the resultant attention is a growing buzzword in provider circles.  And it seems that the focus is on those technological solutions that purport to deliver patient engagement.  An easy claim to action by senior management in hospitals and health systems that there is some level of patient engagement, by sending out health information, providing discharge instructions,  newsletters, some texts and maybe even a tweet or two.

Some have gone so far with the development of smartphone and tablet apps though a recent Accenture report indicates that less than two percent of patients use the apps developed by hospitals. More on that topic in another post on the failure of hospital developed apps to launch.

So while providers focus on the path of least resistance as they are usually wont to do, patient engagement solutions don’t answer the question of how are clinicians developing a relationship with a patient?

For patient engagement strategies to be meaningful, the necessary ingredient is a relationship with the patient. Contrary to popular belief in hospitals and health systems, they do not have relationships with patients or the healthcare consumer.  More often than not, providers are clueless about who has used them, what their healthcare needs are and how to engage them in meeting those needs.

Patient engagement is about building a one-on-one relationship with the individual. Let me repeat, patient engagement is about relationship building. And that relationship is actively managed to create a win-win situation.

Now that being said, technological solutions are a valuable tool, but unless designed to the healthcare needs of the individual, then they are useless. That doesn’t mean taking generic health information and putting someone's name at the top.

Have you engaged your marketing department to help out here?  I will hang up and wait for the silence on that answer.

In a retail medical market or a provider, it’s about responding to the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, not what they hospital thinks they need, or what the hospital needs. Patient engagement is the same way, the ability to respond to the healthcare consumers or patient needs how they want it, when they want it, in the way they want the engagement. 

That may mean to reach out and touch someone via the telephone. Others may require video chats. Some will need to be in person or a group. Others will prefer email or texts.  Some may want a PDF of the health information. Others may prefer a link to a web-based library.

The point being is that if the hospital or health system does not have a clear and unbiased understanding of the engagement needs of the individual, with the appropriate and responsive technological solutions, messaging and communication tactics, then the engagement will not be a success. There will be no relationship with the patient or healthcare consumer.

So before the senior management team goes out thinking they know all there is regarding patient engagement or patient relationship building, better get your marketing department involved on many different levels.  The hospital or health system doesn’t know what it doesn’t know about patient engagement or patient relationship building in a consumer driven, retail medical market.

One size does not fit all, and there is no easy button for patient engagement or relationship.

The hospital or health system can’t have one without the other. It’s a two-way street.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

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