Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post published by permission of its author.
Today’s new focus on patient engagement and improved outcomes presents challenges for healthcare organizations in determining which strategies to leverage for successful engagement and behavior change. First, and simply, let’s face it — behavior change is difficult. Often times patients need to change habits they’ve had for the majority of their lives, and that’s never easy. All at once they are asked to make changes in their lifestyle; deal with the emotional issues and challenges of a disease; and overcome isolation and disclosure issues. There are successes and relapses; starts and stops that can take a toll on the overall success of embracing and accomplishing long-term behavioral change.
Once a healthcare organization settles on a strategy and develops a program, they need to generate awareness of that program among members and drive enrollment across their population of patients. Even if a successful behavior change program can be implemented, it won’t improve population outcomes if a significant number of patients don’t sign up. From the organization’s point of view, it is not enough to change one individual’s behavior; we must change the behavior of enough individuals to impact population health.
To meet both challenges, engagement programs must be just that — engaging. They must find a way to deliver interesting, relevant, and timely information in a way that is not only educational, but also entertaining. It must be flexible and take into consideration that each patient is engaged and entertained in different ways, and that they prefer their engagement through different channels — from print to digital e-health tools. How do you accomplish such a tall order? A multichannel, multimedia approach.
Content Should Fit into Patients’ Habit Streams
Information must first be delivered in a medium that patients are comfortable with, such as TV, print, digital, and mobile, and ideally in multiple mediums, giving them a choice. When information is presented in a way that fits easily into patients’ lives, it improves program adoptability and engenders greater behavior change and better outcomes.
Entertain Your Patients
When patients are entertained, they are more engaged. It goes back to the age-old solution of storytelling. Digital platforms enable storytelling in multimedia formats such as video, articles, and interactive content, including dynamic question and answers, polls and quizzes. What lends to the success of these formats is that the delivery methods are entertaining and exciting. They offer more than a single-medium delivery model where the information may come across as flat.
Partner with a Trusted Source
The invitation to engage must come from a trusted source — someone or an entity with whom they have familiarity and historically positive experiences. If organizations find this challenge difficult to overcome, they should consider partnering with organizations that already have an established, trusted relationship with their consumers. Enabling behavior change is about building a relationship, one where the patient views your information, and most importantly your intent as aligned and consistent with what is best for them.
Engage Over Time
Personalized content is best consumed when integrated in a program that aims to engage a patient over time and delivers that content based on the patient’s progression through therapy adoption and disease maintenance. The key here during this time frame, is to avoid letting behavior tracking and its accompanying feedback loops become the intervention, but rather to put in place proper methods for measurement and feedback that integrate with the broader engagement solution. Programs should look to incorporate behavior tracking as part of a deeper self-care intervention. The ability to measure and track results — not only for the patient but for the program administrators as well — is vital to the long-term success of a program.
The Future of Multimedia in Engagement Programs
With each new development in technology and each organization that announces its no-fail, innovative program, we see that the future is about technology and our ability to empower and engage patients to create positive behavior change in a holistic way. It’s about understanding the patient; establishing a more intimate relationship with them; and rethinking the way we speak to, collaborate with, and educate them. It’s about evolving antiquated strategies into ones that adapt to new methods in communication. Finally, it’s about fully understanding basic human needs and coupling them with traditional therapy and new technologies, including mobile, social, digital, and beyond.
Sean Foster is Chief Executive Officer at dLife. Foster has a proven track record of building and optimizing digital behavior change programs. Leveraging his experience at Weight Watchers, Avon, and The Gilt Groupe, he has a keen insight into what it takes to engage consumers to create positive outcomes. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at (203) 454-6985.