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Patient engagement

Health Care

Patient engagement: how to secure success

With the pandemic wreaking havoc across the healthcare systems around the world, patient engagement tools have become the only means of patient-provider communication. Logically, the patient engagement solutions market has been developing steadily. According to MarketsandMarkets, it’s going to hit $19bn by 2025.

Though the respective services are in demand, the success of a new patient engagement tool is rarely guaranteed. So how to secure it? One way to do this is focus on the hidden challenges of such projects.

Challenge 1. Addressing the right consumers

At first sight, that’s a piece of cake. Many reputable sources state that the majority of consumers would like to manage their health independently, which requires patient engagement via relevant solutions. Moreover, they might already have some positive history of using such tools.

At the same time, if we consider the demographics of such reports, we’ll easily discover that the user persona there is a middle-aged well-off city dweller who has access to the high-speed internet 24/7. Unfortunately, for such users, a new engagement tool is nothing but a toy they may easily leave behind.

At the same time, rural or remote area residents, who may be interested in such tools when seeking care improvements, are often left overboard. According to a 2020 publication in Stroke, rural patients have a higher stroke mortality rate in comparison with city dwellers. Experts conclude this is the effect of urban-rural healthcare disparities, delayed care provision, and poor health management in those areas.

Challenge 2. A faulty communication strategy

Quite often, a provider’s communication with their patients is outbound and unilateral. Here’s how the process goes.

The provider’s marketing specialists reach out to a consumer asking if they are interested in independent health management. If so, they present the new tool and describe its key features. If not, the specialists just say they are sorry to disturb and hang up. Not quite productive, is it?

Though non-intrusive communication causes a mainly positive reaction in consumers, a complete give-up on decliners may be harmful. It results in engaging only those who are already in the game while those who may need remote monitoring and regular consultations are left outside the healthcare system.

To engage those decliners, providers need to make their outreach campaigns resonate with them. This requires advanced personification. In this regard, communication with such patients outside the care setting may work. Experts state it might be useful to reach a consumer on some random day. For instance, a consumer was ill and came to an appointment. After some days, the provider may reach out asking about their health. They may also recommend some extra recovery measures.

Such asynchronous communication offers mutual benefits. It helps nurture trust in patients and, consequently, establish good rapport with them. As the productive relationship develops, providers may find points that are important to patients before, during, and after the actual appointment and base the engagement strategy on that information. Obviously, the effort may take some time.

Luckily, there is a care aspect that is stably overlooked among decliners. It’s adherence to prescribed medicines and regimens. The reasons for such behavior range from the costs to doubts about the treatment’s critical importance. However, in the majority of cases this behavior results in condition worsening. Hence, checking on a patient’s adherence and the relevant messages or notifications may help this patient prevent health deterioration and recognize the benefits of informed health management.

Challenge 3. Erroneous CRM data

When it comes to outreach campaigns, specialists recur to the CRM system. And here comes a disruptor—incorrect contact details. As we know, patients may change their address or simply switch their phone number and email. As a result, a provider’s CRM system gets filled with erroneous entries and contact details that may render any personalization effort inefficient. Such a problem often happens when a provider doesn’t revise their CRM on a regular basis. Specialists recommend cleaning the CRM every month. This may help contact the targeted patients without hindrances and improve the outreach.

Challenge 4. A formalistic approach

When promoting an engagement solution, providers’ marketing specialists usually rely on well-established processes and performance metrics. However, certain issues may skip their attention and hamper success. For example, the established success criteria may be erroneous.

Quite often, the tool performance assessment features formalistic quantitative data. For example, marketing specialists have designed an outreach campaign and contacted a hundred patients from the CRM. Some forty persons expressed interest in the new tool. Others either declined the offer or didn’t reply at all. At this point, marketing specialists just tick the box and consider the outreach is complete even though the interested group is the smallest. The specialists don’t try to find out why decliners reject the tool and just overlook the opportunity to engage more consumers.

To improve the outreach, health marketing experts recommend nurturing the interest in decliners. Experts state that providers’ outreach and engagement specialists may require some training in consumer psychology and behavioral science to get to the root of the problem.

It may also be reasonable to offer some benefits of a tool right away, without registration. That was what Novant Health, a healthcare network from the US South-East, offered their consumers. They could book appointments and study educational materials on the patient portal without registration. The approach helped the provider increase the portal user base from zero to 815 thousand people.

On a final note

The engagement solution’s success is all about its efficiency in users’ engagement in health management. For this matter, creating a functional bug-free application is not enough. It’s important to reach and engage not only those who already manage their health but also those who have never tried it. It’s also vital to ensure insightful bilateral communication to reach decliners and nurture their interest, which may then evolve into engagement. In the end, it’s not the total number of tool users but the number of engaged decliners that marks the tool’s success.

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