Americans are accustomed to receiving personalized information and recommendations in many ways to make their daily routines easier. For example, Netflix provides customized suggestions on what to watch based on our individual interests. Fitbits and other wearable devices provide recommendations and prompts that show us how to increase physical activity or get more sleep based on our tracked lifestyle habits. And after reading articles online, we are directed to additional related content to keep us engaged. Yet, in the midst of all this customization, many healthcare consumers in the U.S. feel that the information they receive from their healthcare team is very general and not tailored enough to their individual needs. To keep up with other industries, meet patients’ expectations, and engage and better support patients in their daily lives, providers can utilize their patient communication technology to deliver more customized and helpful information.
A survey of patients with chronic health conditions
West recently conducted a survey of patients with chronic health conditions and found that patients often feel the information they receive from their healthcare team is too generic and not as useful as it could be. The survey revealed that 88% of patients with chronic conditions feel their providers are not doing enough to give them information tailored to their specific condition.
Instead, patients say they receive very general information. Only 12% of patients with a chronic health condition feel strongly that their healthcare provider gives them tailored information about managing their specific condition. The survey findings indicate patients expect more customized disease management communication and information, and providers could do a better job of delivering in these areas to meet patients’ expectations.
West’s survey also revealed that many patients could have a better understanding of how to manage their health, and in particular, how to manage chronic conditions. Patients need (and desire) consistent support from their providers—and not just during office visits—to ensure chronic diseases are controlled. Ninety-one percent of chronic patients say they need help managing their disease, and 88% of patients who want assistance managing their condition say ongoing support from their provider would make a difference in their overall state of health. By working with patients to become active partners in chronic disease management, healthcare organizations and providers can drive better patient outcomes and potentially see financial benefits.
Customized health management
Most healthcare teams already have the technology in place they need to customize communications for patients. However, in many cases, providers and their staff do not have a clear understanding of how to take advantage of the tools they already use, such as electronic health records system and patient engagement technology—both of which can be used to create targeted and relevant outreach programs.
A first step toward offering customized health management support to patients with chronic conditions involves stratifying patients by disease state. Healthcare teams can use data from electronic health records to evaluate their overall patient population and assign patients into subpopulations with similar conditions and needs. Once patients have been grouped by disease state, it is easy to assign and deliver personalized outreach messages to a large number of patients at once. Then, patients with diabetes, COPD, CHF, and other conditions can be sent disease-specific information that will enable them to better manage their health. Providers can personalize all communications and reminders, and use email, voice messaging, and text messaging to connect with patients using the methods they prefer.
Providers can assign their patients with diabetes, for example, to a care management program and use technology to create and send a series of automated messages to those individuals. The communications might include weekly emails with information about eating healthy for diabetes management. Patients could also receive text message alerts that notify them when they are due for foot and eye exams, or when they need to schedule an A1c draw. They could also be assigned automated calls that prompt them to send their blood sugar readings to their healthcare team for monitoring. These are just a few possibilities; there are countless options for delivering targeted messages and instructions to patients with diabetes or other conditions. The delivery timeline for these communications can be scheduled to meet the needs of individual patients, yet still delivered automatically so as not to overburden staff members.
Technology-enabled communications are not just beneficial to patients with chronic illnesses. Providers can also create communication campaigns targeted to their healthy patients. Since these patients need to maintain their health rather than manage a disease, messages that provide information about prevention would be appropriate. Specifically, scheduling automatic messages that alert patients when it is time to schedule an annual physical, get a seasonal flu shot, or take advantage of other recommended preventive services is a good way to keep healthy patients engaged and encourage them to participate in routine care.
When healthcare teams prioritize patient outreach and personalize communications, they can often increase engagement and improve patient satisfaction. Why is this important? For starters, changes to payment models have started to create a link between patient satisfaction and reimbursements. So, healthcare teams need to ensure they are doing what they can to keep patients satisfied and avoid financial penalties. Also, consumers are aware that they have a choice when it comes to where they seek care.
The bottom line
Consumerization across healthcare is putting pressure on providers to meet patients’ expectations and deliver positive care experiences so they can attract and retain patients. West’s survey responses revealed that feeling satisfied with their healthcare provider is important to 94% of patients. Patient satisfaction is important enough that 81% of patients say they would switch providers without hesitation if dissatisfied with their care. Working to tailor healthcare to each patient is one way for providers to keep patients happy.
Healthcare does not have to trail other industries in personalizing communication and engaging their audience. Healthcare teams have access to technology that will allow them to give patients the tailored information they expect. Providers and their staff simply need to put the technology they are already using to work in new ways.
Allison Hart is a regularly-published advocate for utilizing technology-enabled communications to engage and activate patients beyond the clinical setting. She leads thought leadership efforts for West’s TeleVox Solutions, promoting the idea that engaging with patients between healthcare appointments in meaningful ways will encourage and inspire them to follow and embrace treatment plans, and that activating these positive behaviors ultimately leads to better outcomes for both healthcare organizations and patients. Hart currently serves as Vice President of Marketing for TeleVox Solutions at West , where the healthcare mission is to help organizations harness communications to expand the boundaries of where, when, and how healthcare is delivered.