Smart Health: Hospitals using smartphones to connect and engage with patients

smartphone patient engagementConnect with your patients… one smartphone at a time.

Today, smartphones can be found in the hands of 58% of American adults and they’re checking those phones at least once an hour. It only makes sense that this growing use of technology would carry over to healthcare.

As a healthcare professional and technology lover I’m always looking for better ways to connect patients with their care team. When I say better, I’m looking for options that engage patients, fit with their increasingly mobile lifestyle and help drive better outcomes. A recent FICO study caught my eye when it stated smartphone users want both health care alerts and are looking for a partner in their care.

Today, smartphones can be found in the hands of 58% of American adults and they’re checking those phones at least once an hour. It only makes sense that this growing use of technology would carry over to healthcare. If a person can be reminded about their upcoming hair appointment, why can’t they be reminded to refill their prescription? The FICO study also suggests that people are looking for a partner to help them manage their health.

This makes sense to me and it seems like smartphone alerts could be a successful engagement tool for doctors, hospitals and insurance providers. A quick Google search highlighted a few hospitals that are ahead of the curve. Take Desert Hospital in California, their outpatient pharmacy offers a smartphone app that lets their patients order refills as well as receive alerts and reminders about their medications.

Nyack Hospital in New York and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in Missouri are using smartphone alerts to help reduce hospital readmissions. The goal is to monitor both medication adherence and refill status during that first, critical month following surgery. These hospitals found that not taking post-operative medications correctly and not getting prescriptions refilled were the biggest causes of hospital readmissions. By sending smartphone alerts, both hospitals were able to keep patients on their treatment regiments and reduce readmissions.

In the spirit of a true health partnership, the LewisGale Regional Health System in Virginia lets patients alert the hospital about their arrival to the emergency room. This reverse alert program allows the hospital to plan for needed resources and be better prepared to provide personalized patient care.

The smartphone alert programs offered by these hospitals shine a spotlight on the successful use of technology in healthcare. These examples highlight benefits for both patients and healthcare providers. They also demonstrate the value of patient engagement in improving outcomes.

Another Google search helped me pull together a list of tips and things to consider when thinking about starting a smartphone alert program for your organization.

  1. Think technology and effectiveness. How tech savvy is your patient demographic? What will be more effective, a text or app based alert program?
  1. Stay true to your voice. Keep in mind your healthcare profile, as well as the guidelines and policies of your organization.
  1. Know your patient demographic. Create alert programs to meet your patient’s needs, keep the information focused and clear.
  1. Understand cellular charges. What are the implications of potential cellular charges on patients using the alert program?
  1. Stay up-to-date. Follow industry changes in regulations, new research, guidelines and medications; update the program as needed.
  1. Know your geography. Smartphone alert programs are only as reliable as the cellular network they operate on. Where do your patients live, what’s the reception like in your area, will they receive the alerts?
  1. Define the timeframe for alerts. Research the best and worst times to send alerts. Understand the frequency needed to be effective.

The FICO study offers valuable learnings for healthcare providers seeking to engage patients. Smartphone alert programs provide an opportunity to stay connected, improve outcomes and to become a trusted partner in your patient’s healthcare.

Content Marketing in Healthcare: Reaching an 80-Year-Old Patient Population

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the Integrated Marketing Forum focused on using content to fuel marketing and drive business. Two things caught my attention and motivated me to attend; the amazing list of speakers and a talk focused on healthcare content marketing. I have to admit I don’t often see a healthcare company presenting at a marketing conference and was interested to see what I could learn and share with the larger healthcare marketing community.

Tricia Todd from Edwards Lifesciences presented Marketing a Medical Breakthrough: Finding a Way in a Restricted Environment. With the introduction of transcatheter heart valves Edwards Lifesciences faced a challenge. They needed to create a communication and education plan that resonated with an 80-year-old patient population and a complex group of healthcare professionals, while working within the FDA guidelines. With time and careful planning they were able to accomplish both goals.

10 Things I Learned from the Edwards Lifesciences Journey 

  1. Go for substance not sizzle
    • Be the subject matter expert, meet the patient’s educational needs during their time of crisis
  2. Know the persona of your patient population
    • This isn’t simply demographic data, truly define who they are so you understand their needs and how best to engage them
  3. Speak their language
    • This is critical in driving patient awareness and understanding of a new treatment option
    • Understanding the persona of your patient population makes speaking their language so much easier, see #2
  4. Define all of the customers involved so messaging can be targeted
    • Patients, family, caregivers
    • Referring physicians
    • Implanting physicians
  5. Use the appropriate language for each customer group
    • The B2C (patient) and the B2B (healthcare professionals) messaging must be adjusted to fit the customer, see #4
  6. Talk directly to the patients
    • Include videos of real patients sharing their experiences
  7. Tailor the content and media to the audience
    • For the patients, use a format that is easier to understand, low density, more visuals, no hyperlinks, easy scrolling
    • Edwards went with a simple website seniors could easily navigate
  8. Identify and address significant patient issues such as how to find a local physician that offered this new procedure
    • Edwards included a hospital and medical staff locator in the website, utilizing zip codes to find nearby facilities
  9. Provided appropriate support tools
    • ‘What to Expect’ section describing the treatment process
    • Discussion guide patients could take with them to doctor visits
  10. Measure success of the overall website, the different sections and tools
    • Refine and change as learnings grow

The end result, is an excellent example of content marketing in the healthcare setting. Kudos to Edwards Lifesciences for pushing the boundaries and delivering best in class content.