Everyone wins when healthcare organizations successfully motivate chronically ill customers to get—and stay—healthy.
Patients know it. The healthcare industry knows it. But that’s not enough.
“Human behavior is pretty complicated. If it was easy, everybody would be making healthy choices,” says Richard Safeer, MD, medical director of employee health and wellness at Johns Hopkins HealthCare LLC at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. “Also, people have different needs, and you have to meet them where they are on their health journey.”
Here are five fresh and surprising ways to tailor experiences so patients adopt healthier behaviors when faced with chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
1. Let consumers decide how they want to hear from you
If you reach customers by the means they prefer, they’re more likely to listen. Don’t assume. Ask.
“Our survey shows that (health) plans are not quite keeping pace with the digital demand,” says Bryce Williams, president and CEO of HealthMine, A clinical technology firm with a clinical analytics platform in Dallas. “Plans need to meet beneficiaries on their terms and cater to their preferences.”
HealthMine’s survey of 781 Medicare Advantage or Supplemental members shows 47% favor digital communication with their plan, but only 34% actually receive it. A study by Survey Sampling International found only 18% wish healthcare providers reached them by regular mail.
Communication is critical for the complicated healthcare of individuals with chronic disease, says Tashfeen Ekram, MD, chief medical officer and co-founder of digital health firm Luma Health in San Francisco. “So much of what affects patient health outcomes has little to do with patient office visits but is tied more to what happens in between them. Patients and providers must be able to communicate effectively throughout the patient lifecycle.”
Knowledge is power: Patients can express their concerns while healthcare staff can learn of and address medical issues early on.
2. Eliminate drive and wait time
Serve patients and physicians alike by automating time-consuming tasks before the patient even walks through the door: scheduling, visit reminders and the filling of insurance and medical forms.
Not only does this shave phone and in-person wait-times, but also “this aligns with quadruple aims of value-based medicine: improved outcomes, enhanced patient experiences, increased provider satisfaction and reduced per-capita costs,” Ekram says.
To be fully effective, such portals and mobile- and text-driven platforms should be fully integrated with as many electronic health record (EHR) and practice management (PM) systems as possible, so patient data will be synced and up-to-date.
EMindful’s eM Life digital app and web platform offer 15 to 20 daily interactive mindfulness classes on-demand and online to Aetna employees and others.
“We looked at modern content consumption and saw that easy access is paramount. Patients are less likely to adopt new habits if they have to drive to classes or wait to speak with a professional,” says Zev Suissa, chief innovation officer, strategic partnerships at eMindful, an Orlando, Florida, firm that offers online and mobile interactive mindfulness courses.