Healthcare

6 major mistakes of patient engagement

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The first step to solving any problem is realizing there is one. Patient engagement has for many health organizations, become a catchy buzzword to satisfy meaningful use. However, the following seven major mistakes are ones, which when realized and rectified, can create powerful results to support your organization’s mission.    

Non-attribution of patient finances

By far, this is the number one mistake that many health organizations make. Ignore this at your company’s future peril.

{mosads}The United States carries mass unaffordability from skyrocketing prices in medications, coverage, and care services. Notice I say prices and not costs, because the first term matters to health consumers and the other matters to health organizations.  

With a majority of healthcare consumers paying heavy first dollars — they simply value the pain of losing real money more than the potential upside gain in their health. That’s the trigger — and no matter how much data and technology you throw at them, you need to address the core values they base their behavior and decisions on.

Never forget that most providers, hospitals, payers and drug companies never practiced much patient engagement until it meant bottom line dollars to them through a shift to value-based care. Motives are rarely unselfish— so why should we expect more from our patients?

If you want patients to take greater control of their healthcare and that of their families, make their money or loss of it, a part of that picture. Use loss aversion to set two different fees for care service, premiums, or medications — a normal, full fee for those not participating in an engagement program, and perhaps a 10 percent reduction for those who do.  

You don’t have a big picture behind your patient engagement

Patient engagement programs are purported to improve patient outcomes and lower cost, are lazily robotic, and lack genuineness. These are not reasons for having the program — they are expected results from having it — and both results are entirely self-serving.

Since when did healthcare companies start caring about improving patient outcomes and lowering cost? Oh, yes…right about when it became important to their future Medicare and private payer compensation.

While mandates for meaningful use and patient portals exist, your overarching communications and messaging must be patient-centered and genuinely sincere.     

No true strategy for patient engagement

Running patients through a portal in your EMR or population health software is not the same as having an engagement strategy. Moreover, patient engagement should not be bundled into patient experience or wellness programs. More than getting customers to do what you ask — engagement is about humanizing health consumerism relationships and empowering personal healthcare responsibility.

It’s important to own your strategy. Watch out for companies that offer patient engagement ‘nails’ through the one-size-fits-all hammer they want to sell you. This includes CRM system offshoots, direct, digital or image marketing companies, plus telemarketing & customer service centers.

Finally, don’t confuse patient engagement tactics with patient engagement strategy. For example, tele-consults might be a tactic to help increase patient follow-through on lifestyle management. However, tele-health might be just one of several supporting tactics to help a strategy for decreasing costs and increasing efficiency of care delivery.

Lack of clear and proper metrics

  • What constitutes patient engagement to your organization?
  • How often the patient uses the portal technology?

  • The number of downloads for their patient data?

  • When a patient creates an uninitiated interaction from their end?

  • Level of medication adherence?

  • Utilization of care, compared to similar age, gender or disease profiles?

  • Referrals of non-engaged family members to have received a yearly physical?

  • Average loss of weight in obese chronically ill patients?

This is where overarching patient engagement strategy is necessary; and every tactical action contains its own assigned metric. The metrics are a reflection of the tactical plan, supporting the strategic plan, which itself supports the company’s mission.    

Lack of a Personalized Engagement Chain (PEC)

How and when do health consumers interact with your company? Every single touch point or physical exchange represents an opportunity to take your trained staff and change health consumer lives. How do you measure and document this? Can you build up and carry forward a record showing the ‘engagement trail’ or PEC?

Trends and weighted facets of this trail will begin to show themselves, as to the biggest difference-makers into getting patients to take better control of their health.

Lacking a top-down and all-around culture

Effective and powerful patient engagement programs involve leaders, managers and employees at all levels. Every company member that communicates or has a chance to communicate with patients should ask questions specific to their expertise and need to engage in confidential information.    

Let’s take a hospital, which carries a large segment of low-income or poor patients. They expect a doctor or nurse to persuade them about lifestyle change. How about additional support from a food server or cleaning services worker who truly buys into the model of better engagement?   

Organizations should consider flattening their hierarchy to gain a cumulative buy-in culture for patient engagement. Naturally, patient data must remain confidential and segmented accordingly.   

In conclusion, patient engagement shouldn’t be about meeting mandates, but exceeding expectations. Embracing strategies and tactics that tell health consumers that they are valued; and that healthcare companies want to meet them where they are, and help them to grow further. We’re hiring, training and managing a culture of people that exemplify old-time doctoring, empathy, and empowerment becomes the new era of healthcare.

Steve Ambrose selectively consults on disruption and strategy in healthcare consumer engagement. His career includes more than 20 years in frontline patient care and persuasive communication. He headed up strategy, internal marketing and call-center operations for a technology company with millions of needy clients. He is also the host for Red Hot Healthcare, a weekly podcast of healthcare leader interviews and news discussion across the sector.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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