The Quest for the Holy Grail – Consumer Engagement


Realizing results by delivering the right information, at the right time, in the right way – remains the elusive holy grail of consumer engagement. 

A new study published by Accenture Life Sciences shows that only one out of every five patients is aware of the number and type of therapeutic services available to them after diagnosis.   The study found that the period between diagnosis and treatment is the most frustrating time for patients, with over two-thirds of survey respondents indicating that there is room for improvement.  This represents a great opportunity for healthcare institutions to provide patients with information and support to navigate through this confusing and complicated time.

However, healthcare consumers don’t only need help post-diagnosis.  The study also suggests that consumers yearn for notifications from their healthcare professionals when they are at risk of developing a condition which could impact their lives in the future.  Thirty four percent of survey respondents highlighted their frustration at the lack of information, support, and guidance they received during this “grey area” of having a pre-condition but trending in the wrong direction.

These findings represent just one recent data point which wipes away a common question asked amongst healthcare professionals tasked with engaging patients and members: “Do my consumers want this information?  Do they want and expect more from me?”  The resounding answer is “YES!”.  Knowing this, we can focus on the key challenges of consumer engagement – knowing exactly WHAT information to present, and WHEN and HOW to present it in a way that resonates with users, maximizing the chance that they will take an appropriate action.

If you are looking to increase engagement with your healthcare consumers, here are 5 steps that can help:

1.  Get to Know Them: 
It all begins with knowing who your users are, and understanding what they’re going through. This may begin with segmenting your population based on demography, geography, psychology, and technology. However, to be most effective, you must get personal quickly, and include data such as specific medical history, prognosis, and observed behaviors. Initially, organizations must build trust and demonstrate empathy through showing they understand their users enough to appreciate what they’re going through.
2.  Simplify the Experience: 
Present users with the right information necessary for action, and do it through the most appropriate communication channels. First and foremost, this is about delivering a unified and simplified experience to users. A recent panel of some of the Bay Area’s most forward-thinking healthcare companies agreed that breakthrough innovation will come from how information is presented to users. “It’s really easy to take something complicated and make it more complicated. Real progress comes when we simplify complicated things for people,” – Collective Health Co-founder and Chief Health Officer Rajaie Batniji 
Here are a few ways really smart people I know are doing this, today.
3.  Provide Relentless Suport: 
Support your users in the actions they decide to take. Regardless of how large or small the action is, having an easy to use and accessible support system is important – a nurseline, a technology live chat window, or simply a secure email address or number to text with rapid response – people need to know they have a safety net.
4.  Meet Them Where They Are: 
Ensure your consumers feel that you’re taking the journey with them. Showing your consumers that you’re aware of their journey through every interaction you have with them builds trust. This could be a simple email notification when a certain goal or step in a program is complete or a phone call to nudge someone if it appears that they have stopped making progress on their pre-operation checklist.
5.  Listen and Learn: 
Finally, you must use what you learn about your consumers to improve how you interact with them. This may be as simple as validating the best time to call them during a day or week. Or understanding what technology devices a family has in the house. Every piece of data learned, must be used to create a more personalized and valuable service to your users.

An A.T. Kearney report from 2011 on engaging health plan members articulates the great opportunity that health plans have to lead the charge on healthcare consumer engagement.  Although plans may point to some small wins over the past few years, Accenture’s recent findings show the holy grail of engagement has yet to be discovered, if not proven. Now, more than ever healthcare organizations across the continuum of care such as health and hospital systems, big pharma, and even device manufacturers are expected to engage with their consumers across the healthcare journey. This expectation from consumers will force more organizations  to set out on the quest, to find the elusive holy grail of consumer engagement.

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