Increase Patient Engagement through Personalization

Have you ever arrived at a restaurant and had the host greet you by your name? Or perhaps you have walked in to your hotel room to find a personalized note along with a basket full of your favorite fruit. Those little personal touches make most of us feel important and appreciated. Not surprisingly, we are more likely to frequent an establishment that has engaged us in a personal way versus one that has not.[1]

One could argue that personalizing the healthcare experience is even more important, as not only do we want patients to have a great experience; we also want them to be engaged in their care and recovery. In fact, recent studies indicate a correlation between patient engagement and improved healthcare outcomes.[2] [3]Achieving adherence to post-operative guidelines is particularly critical in medical travel where patients might complete their recovery hundreds or thousands of miles away from the hospital and doctor who treated them. Take a look at the following two scenarios.

Patient ‘A,’ let’s call him Sam, undergoes a gastric sleeve surgery in a distant city. After a day or two in the hospital or clinic and a few days recuperating in a hotel, Sam returns home with post-operative care instructions, medications and some nutritional guidelines. A week later Sam is contacted by the healthcare provider to inquire about his wellbeing. Soon after he starts receiving a bi-weekly email with general information about the hospital and latest news.

Patient ‘B,’ let’s call her Sonia, undergoes the same type of bariatric procedure. After returning home, however, Sonia’s communication experience with the healthcare provider is considerably different:

  • After three days: She receives a call from the healthcare provider.
  • After one week: Sonia receives link to a series of instructional videos with exercises to help her speed up her recovery and improve her strength and conditioning.
  • After two weeks: An email with a list of top-ten challenges faced by bariatric patients and how to overcome them.
  • After month one: A call from the healthcare provider followed by an email with a list of post-bariatric surgery diet recipes.
  • Every month after that: Sonia receives a monthly newsletter with various tips, promotions and motivational stories that align with her interests and healthcare goals.

Which patient had a better overall patient experience and is more likely to have a better treatment outcome? We would probably all agree that it was Patient ‘B’. In this example, the healthcare provider personalized its communication to increase patient engagement, improve compliance and ultimately build a long-lasting relationship with Sonia.

By sending traveling patients content specific to their condition, interests and preferences, along with reminders to follow the prescribed treatment plan, healthcare providers are able to create a stronger connection with the patient while at the same time increase compliance with the treatment plan. This is a win-win for patients as well as healthcare providers who may struggle – because of distance – to ensure medical travelers are properly engaged in their recovery once they return home.

There are many digital technologies healthcare providers can use to personalize a patient’s healthcare experience – patient portals, smart phone apps, text reminders, voice mail messages, videos and emails are just a few. The first step to personalization, however, is collecting the right data. According to an article published in Health Data Management, “Many healthcare organizations are using consumer insights—including demographic and psychographic data, past care program data and claims history—to develop tailored communications designed to maximize patient participation.”[4]

With such clear advantages, hospitals and clinics should look at every opportunity to engage patients including before, during and after treatment. This may require adjusting current data collection methods so as to obtain more robust patient insights that can then be used to personalize communications and interactions across the entire Medical Travel Care Continuum™.

In the current age of the internet, social media and instant gratification, people and particularly millennials are demanding more personalization and greater use of technology when it comes to their healthcare.[5] As we look to the future, expect knowledge and technology to play an even greater role in facilitating more personalized patient experiences. Healthcare providers who anticipate and embrace these trends will be well positioned to meet and exceed their patients’ expectations.

[1] Hyken, S. Personalized Customer Experience Increases Revenue And Loyalty (2017). Retrieved at https://www.forbes.com/sites/shephyken/2017/10/29/personalized-customer-experience-increases-revenue-and-loyalty/#6829b5304bd6 on July 1st 2018.

[2] Simmons, L. et al. Patient engagement as a risk factor in personalized health care: a systematic review of the literature on chronic disease. (2014). Retrieved at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4064309/ on July 2, 2018.

[3] February Health Affairs Issue: New Era Of Patient Engagement. Retrieved at https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20130204.027879/full/ on July 3, 2018

[4] Kenney, K., HIT Think Four ways payers and providers can use tech to aid patients’ experience (2018). Retrieved at https://www.healthdatamanagement.com/opinion/four-ways-to-use-technology-to-aid-patient-experience on June 26, 2018

[5] Hussey, K. How Personalization Drives Effective Patient Engagement and Delivers Enriched Experiences (2016). Retrieved at https://www.healthdialog.com/blog/how-personalization-drives-effective-patient-engagement-and-delivers-enriched-experiences on July 3, 2018.

*Medical travel is also commonly known as medical tourism or health tourism.