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Patient Engagement Strategies That Work

doctor-holding-tablet-with-patientPatient-centered care has been considered an essential component of transforming health care in America since the Institute of Medicine published “Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century” in 2001. In recent years, the focus on patient engagement strategies has only intensified as hospitals and other providers work to meet mandates aimed at reducing preventable readmissions and achieving meaningful use standards — prompting one health IT strategy consultant to claim that “patient engagement is the blockbuster drug of the century.”

Emphasizing the importance of patient engagement, mHealth News cites evidence offered by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that “patients not engaged in their own care can cost 21 percent more than ‘highly engaged’ patients. 

Patient Engagement is Worth the Effort

Beyond reducing the cost of care, patient engagement positively impacts patient satisfaction and outcomes. Yet many organizations struggle to implement effective patient engagement strategies. Let’s take a look at three patient engagement strategies that are generating positive results.

1. Connecting with Millennials

Millennials have grown up in an always-connected, instant-access world powered by the internet and mobile technologies. They do not want to wait two weeks or more for an appointment with a physician. Becker’s Hospital Review related results from one study that showed that Millennials are twice as likely as adults over 50 to use retail health clinics and urgent care centers. What’s more, 34 percent of this market does not have a primary care physician, so reaching these potential patients is an important step developing longer-term relationships.

With more than 80 million millennials in the U.S., the Cleveland Clinic recognized that it needed to make some strategic changes in order to appeal to this 18 to 33-year-old audience.

Cleveland Clinic’s chief experience officer, James Merlino, MD, told Forbes that since introducing same-day appointments, demand has risen to the nearly a million same-day appointments annually. To further expand its reach into this young consumer market, the health care organization has also implemented strategies to increase accessibility through digital and social media channels, allowing Millennials — and other uber-connected patients — to enjoy the convenience of making appointments or accessing information using mobile devices, online chat and HIPAA-compliant e-mail with physicians — leading to higher levels of patient satisfaction and engagement.

2. Leveraging Social Media to Engage Patients

As the director of content strategy at Vanderbilt University Hospital, Cynthia Manley leads a team that must be tuned into to what consumers want and need.

The Vanderbilt Health Facebook page has exceeded 155,000 likes and @VUMChealth has more than 9,000 Twitter followers, thanks to a strategic approach to patient engagement using social media. Manley notes that success takes more than just the right content — they must also target their audience using the right channels.

In a September article published by Health Leaders Media, Manley explained that “if I am trying to reach 50-year-old women, the most brilliant tactical execution in Google Plus is probably not going to work because, by and large, the women I'm trying to reach aren't using Google Plus.”

One of the health care organization’s most successful initiatives has been a private Facebook group for its surgical weight-loss patients. Members can share frank discussions about daily challenges, encourage each other to adhere to the program and drive better patient outcomes — Vanderbilt University Hospital is simply the facilitator.

Manley notes, “The community is truly that — a community of patients going through an experience that impacts virtually everything about their lives. It is really about them, not us, and that is what set the stage for success.”

3. Patient Engagement Strategies – Not Just for Health Care Providers

As businesses grapple with the ever-increasing costs of insuring employees, they recognize that they can play a role in engaging employees in healthier behaviors. Johnson & Johnson is one of the leaders in this arena — and the company’s successes are highlighted on its own website:

  • A stress management program resulted in 58 percent of participants seeing an improvement within six months
  • A smoking-cessation program saw a 42 percent success rate within six months
  • And 55 percent of participants in a weight-loss program also saw positive results.

In addition, 90 percent of employees participate in the “Energy for Performance in Life” program, a more lifestyle-oriented approach to wellness.

The Key to Success is Understanding Your Audience

In each of these success stories, one important aspect is having a clear picture of the patients you want to reach. You need deep consumer insights that drill down to the heart of the matter:  Determining what motivates positive health behaviors. Even when patients can be grouped by a shared health concern — such as with diabetes– you will not connect effectively by relying on a one-size-fits-all approach, because everyone with diabetes do not think and act alike.  People are not defined by their disease.  Psychographic segmentation is a more effective way of grouping people according to their motivations.

At c2b solutions, we offer a range of consumer insights, segmentation and marketing expertise to help organizations develop more effective patient engagement strategies. Contact us today to learn more, or check out our case studies for examples of how our products and services can drive patient activation.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change


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