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Engaged Patients Cost Less

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, April 17, 2013

"The most innovative healthcare delivery systems recognize this and see their patients as assets who can help them achieve the goals of better health at lower costs. From this point of view, 'investing' in patients and helping them to be more effective partners in care makes good sense."

Dave deBronkart, a.k.a. e-Patient Dave, also talks about the value of engaged patients in his most recent Forbes column, says "Let patients help." In the article, he describes how being an engaged and informed patient when diagnosed with stage-IV kidney cancer improved his outcome and possibly even saved his life.

The question for marketers, then, is how can we most effectively invest in patients in a way that fosters higher levels of engagement? The Health Affairs study authors offer two suggestions:

  1. Build into every step of the care process a meaningful role for patients and their families.
  2. Tailor and customize care in a way that helps patients acquire the knowledge and skills they need to effectively manage their health.

I've seen some organizations tackle these steps by creating easy-to-understand brochures and literature for patients to take with them after their hospitalization. Some take the next step of a follow-up call to make sure patients understand the instructions and are following them. And many hospitals, like the one where I'm receiving my care, check in with patients before their procedure.

While these are all likely effective, it seems to me that hospitals need to move away from fostering incident-based engagement and toward patient-based engagement. Patients should be engaged in their health and healthcare at all times, not just when they are having surgery or contract an illness.

It's up to marketers, working with physicians, administrators, and patients, to figure out what that balance is.

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2 comments on "Engaged Patients Cost Less"


Joe Bigley (4/23/2013 at 11:54 AM)
@Patricia - I completely with your suggestion to include a "customer service" function in healthcare. It would engage patients more fully resulting in higher customer acquisitions, improve outcomes by more fully engaging them in their own care, raise patient satisfaction levels and likely reduce re-admissions. I was lead into the healthcare space having originally developed a video chat application for online customer service. Working with the Dir of Telehealth at Univ of Illinois at Chicago's Med School, we incorporated best practices from online customer service and over the course of about 12 months customized the application to include additional functionality specific to healthcare. It's now installed at a major healthcare system in Utah where it was originally piloted for 6 months to deliver evisits as an employee benefit. The results were so impressive that it's now been rolled out to all 25,000 employees with plans to extend the service to their patient population as well. In an industry where there is such competition for the new patients(AKA customers)it just makes sense that better customer service would yield more and better satisfied customers.

Patricia (4/17/2013 at 4:30 PM)
Marketers, really? Let's think again about those with best skill set to really improve patient experience. How about customer service/customer experience professionals? They're not marketers, and I don't know one hospital that has that job title in its HR database. Note to hospitals: hire these people from luxury hotels or spas, pros who know how to treat a customer right. Or from Zappo's or Amazon, pros who know how to cajole me into doing what they want. IMHO, healthcare background has almost nothing to offer me in terms of customer/patient experience except for those with innate skills.