Patient engagement: 'Behavior dominates technology'

Healthcare is 'so much more emotional than an iPhone'
By Eric Wicklund
03:20 PM
Patient and doctor with tablet

Here's something to think about: Patient engagement is not the number of clicks on a website, or app downloads, or log-ins, or time spent on a device. And it's not about adherence, either.

Motivation and emotion, instead, are the most critical factors. 

To Kyra Bobinet, a consulting faculty member of the Stanford School of Medicine and CEO of engagedIN, the path to patient engagement lies in finding what motivates people and keep them emotionally interested. All that technology and talk about medication adherence is surface detail, not the deeper waters where engagement lies.

Opening the second day of the HIMSS and Healthcare IT News Patient Engagement Summit in San Diego, Bobinet said healthcare providers need to dive down into those deeper waters to create lasting relationships with their patients. Focus on behaviors rather than technology, find the triggers that make people sit up and take notice.

Healthcare "is so much more emotional than an iPhone," she said.

It's an enduring theme throughout the two-day conference: Don't base your entire patient engagement strategy on the newest toys and trends; rather, look at how health or healthcare resonates with people, and then design a program or project around that. Products or strategies that elicit delight, surprise or relief resonate with patients, as do initiatives that strengthen relationships.

Sometimes those in healthcare unintentionally create barriers or pockets of space between the patient and the provider. A health system that offers a pain app probably didn't fully think things through – "If you call it a pain app," Bobinet pointed out, "it's going to cause pain." And portals, apps or other solutions that require the patient to invest a lot of time and energy won't catch on with people. It's best to neither force or enforce anything.

"Behavior always dominates technology," she said. "If it doesn't resonate with how you actually feel about it, it's going to miss you."

By and large, patients are going to tell providers what does matter to them, and it's up to the healthcare system to turn an attentive ear and listen to what their patients are saying. During a panel session following Bobinet's keynote, officials from the Cleveland Clinic, Palomar Health and the UC San Diego Health system talked of highlighting the human touch in the hospital stay. Make sure patients in the ED or waiting rooms are checked on constantly, and doctors or nurses follow up with patients after they're discharged. 

And make sure those patient surveys focus on how people were treated, and how they felt about their experiences.

"People don't say, 'Wow, they did a great job stitching me up,'" noted Lori Kondas, senior director of the Office of Patient Experience at the Cleveland Clinic.



Here's what happened

Patient engagement tips from the pros
Making patient engagement a hard science
Patient engagement: 'Behavior dominates technology'

Patient engagement advice? Expect irrationality
Docs need to make consumer engagement a priority
Time to phase out physician office visits?

More regional news

Want to get more stories like this one? Get daily news updates from Healthcare IT News.
Your subscription has been saved.
Something went wrong. Please try again.