Patient engagement is no longer just a buzzword in healthcare and the marketing world. At the HIMSS conference last week, it was a talking point for many organizations. Health IT companies wanted to play their part in enabling patients to become more informed about healthcare. Americans today are seeking more healthcare knowledge and information outside of the doctor’s office. For example, according to a study by TeleVox and Kelton Research, 83% of Americans don’t follow treatment plans given by their doctors exactly as prescribed and almost half feel they would follow these plans if they received encouragement and coaching between visits. Even when patients are seeking more interaction, 50% of healthcare professionals believe their job begins and ends during regular office visits.
The Influence of Community
One major area of patient engagement is online patient groups. Almost 20% of people seek online support groups to interact with others who have similar health issues. These groups are a valuable place for healthcare marketers to discover what information patients are seeking and to interact with them on their own terms.
Similar to online support groups that connect patients on their own terms, social media in general is becoming increasingly more valuable to healthcare organizations. According to the Pew Internet Report, “The Social Life of Health Information,” 23% of people are using social media to follow the health experiences of friends and more than 80% of individuals between the ages of 18-24 said they were likely to share health information through social media channels. With this fact in mind, is your content shareable and easy to digest? Remember that engaging with patients also means capturing their attention on social media sites, especially because nearly 90% said they would trust the health information they found on social media.
During the HIMSS conference last week, I heard this quote, “The most influential are the most helpful.” This is especially true for healthcare providers. If you want to become a leading source that patients turn to online, you have to be helpful, answering their concerns as quickly as they’re asked and easing their fears. If you want patients to become more informed, then inform them!
From Engaged Patients to Empowered Patients
The desire to become more educated about health issues, insurance and policies is moving onto the next step from patient engagement to patient empowerment. The communication between providers and patients is no longer a one-way street: Online communities and social media have opened the door for patients to engage providers as well. Providers will become partners with their patients, and this partnership increases the commitment to that provider. While marketing has always played a role in getting new patients in the doors, it is important to not forget about sustaining relationships with the fully engaged—these are the ones who will spread the word about your organization.