February 14, 2018

Changing the Default: Using Human-Centered Design to Boost Patient Engagement

Too often, health systems put up a patient web portal, pass out instructions, and then ― like the builders in the “Field of Dreams” ― wait for people to show up. But the vast majority of patients never make the trip.

That’s because the web-based portal doesn’t meet today’s healthcare consumers where most live, which is on their phones. Only 5 to 10 percent of patients interact with web portals, while up to 90 percent instead engage via messaging pushed to them via texts or other mobile methods. More than 80 percent of patients prefer to interact via mobile devices today. As a result, today’s healthcare providers need a solution that changes the default. They need solutions that do not require patients to log in to a patient portal. They need solutions that deliver SMS messages “just in time,” with weblinks making it easy to execute specific care tasks for pre-care, point-of-care and post-care.

Why is this important? Patients who are more actively involved in their healthcare tend to have better outcomes, such as reduced hospital admissions ― which means lower costs.

Value-based payment models now being adopted have increased the emphasis on outcomes ― meaning that getting patients engaged has become mission-critical.

To achieve this, health systems need to change their decades-old default approaches.

Many use ― in addition to portals ― multiple different apps to handle segments of patient outreach, such as those for reminders or scheduling. However, this can lead to disjointed, uneven care. A unified platform integrating all outreach technologies is more efficient, effective — and engaging.

Also important: human-centered design, which recognizes consumer needs and helps create visually friendly interfaces, easy-to-use tools and information served in small chunks (such as discharge instructions, given in a series of linked texts, in addition to the usual packet of densely printed pages).

Services can also be customized to the type of patient:

A prospective or new patient might be reached through social media ads, posts and reviews and can go online to view information about the physician, set up an appointment and fill out new patient questionnaires.

An episodic or well patient can be reached with just-in-time appointment reminders, check-ins, surveys and post-care summaries sent via text, email or automated voice response.

A chronic patient can receive these messages as well as additional outreach, such as periodic reminders relevant to that person. A patient living with diabetes can be reminded to come in for three-month bloodwork, for instance.

Special needs can also be addressed. For example, a parent working on an oil rig had a child who was many miles away and in need of surgery. The parent signed a consent form via text. The hospital also was able to help the parent stay virtually connected to the action with a series of texts documenting the child’s progress through pre-op to recovery ― much like a Twitter feed.

In the KLAS Patient Engagement 2017 report, one health system reported shifting to texting patients, which drove patient engagement. “We ended up with a real mobile connection with our patients,” the health system’s executive said, citing a 50 percent response rate to texts. “We don’t send emails because people don’t read emails anymore. The texts are pushed in real time for very specific reasons, such as preparing for a visit, providing post-case information, setting up appointments or speaking with a physician. At the end of the day, it is what consumers want that will drive how successful we can be.”

By adopting a robust, consistent and human-centered engagement platform, health systems can increase patient satisfaction and motivate patients to become more active partners in their care ― resulting in better health and improved outcomes.

Continue the conversation at HIMSS18. Visit us at Booth 4769. 

Original Blog Posted on HIMMS.org  and HIMSSConference.org