Transparency during the consumerization of healthcare

I’m at the Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Summit, where, over the next few days, we’ll be considering the transformation of healthcare through empathy and innovation. We’re just a few hours in and have already heard from some great speakers, been brought to tears more than once by moving video storytelling, and discussed barriers to innovation from digital disparities, to cost of entry, to regulation and privacy issues, to patient expectations and clinical realities.

Dr. William Morris, Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Wayne Guerra, iTriage; Dr. Imad Najm, Cleveland Clinic; Adrei Pop, Human API

Dr. William Morris, Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Wayne Guerra, iTriage; Dr. Imad Najm, Cleveland Clinic; Adrei Pop, Human API

The overarching theme thus far – from Mobile App creators, to physicians, and a Google executive – is the need for transparency.

When mHealth is adopted in this country, it will be because consumers demand it. But, to get consumers engaged using telehealth and health-related apps, we (developers, communicators, physicians, etc.) have to set accurate expectations from the start. We have to educate users about what to expect from the app, and be completely transparent about its limitations, and – most importantly – be clear that technology should augment the consumer experience of healthcare, not replace physicians.

The onus is on mHealth brands – and their communication professionals – to help guide patient expectations. If mHealth is to be a consumer product, communicators need to help users to understand what apps can and can’t do to improve or facilitate health care and health information seeking. According to William Morris, the Associate Chief Medical Information Officer at Cleveland Clinic and award-winning innovator, customers need us to tell them that these “technologies aren’t meant to replace physicians, but to augment [medical care].”

Consumers will be disappointed unless they have realistic expectations. Simply adding a page on your website with consumer instructions will go a long way toward ensuring that your paying customers get the experience they think they’re paying for. More happy customers means more positive reviews, and ultimately, more amplification of your value proposition. That’s what we’re all after – right?

Where do you think the consumerization of health care will lead? Who do you want tomorrow’s patient to be and how can you help today’s patient to become that informed consumer?

How is social media changing healthcare? Let me count the ways (and questions)…

The power of social media has been harnessed by businesses, marketers, public relations reps, and the media. In some cases (I’m thinking specifically of traditional print and television news reporting) this has meant significant changes to the way business is done – some good, some bad, all angst-invoking.

At the Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium, we’re talking about how the business of healthcare is changing. Social media, big data, telemedicine, and the Affordable Care Act are all top of mind in these meetings with health professionals, innovators, and inventors.

When Facebook rolled out integrated blood donor registration, over 10,000 Facebook users quickly registered to donate.

Innovators are working to design edutainment, a combination of gaming and teaching or physical therapy that incents patient participation, making their treatment another addictive technology. Why not harness the power of CandyCrush for good? Giving virtual badges for good behavior doesn’t seem to be enough to engage patients over the long term. Can the act of data capture itself be made fun enough to encourage engagement?

Patients are collecting scads of their own data on their devices everyday. They wear FitBits; they track calories on cellphone apps. But, how can we motivate patients to share this data? What happens when they get busy, stressed, or just tired of collecting data? There are very exciting ways to wear devices that automatically gather data, and complementary devices that automatically transmit that data to your healthcare team. But, if this were all as easy as wearing a t-shirt, would you?

People watch YouTube videos about everything from healthy cooking lessons to shaping their behinds. But with all this information available for free on the Internet – whether it’s good information or not is quite debatable – how do we pay for its production? If we make patients pay, what incentive do they have to actually do it? Should insurance companies pay?

Bottom line: There is no “easy button” solution patient engagement. Patients at different stages of their lives (pre-op, post-op, maintenance, etc.) require different engagement strategies. And, strategic development is not enough. There are barriers to adoption for both caregivers and patients, and until we can address these, changing the structures limiting behavior change, the incredibly awesome innovations we’re seeing are nothing more than inventions.