HERNDON, Va.–During a presentation at the 2012 Healthcare IT Connect Summit on June 20, panelists discussing social media and patient engagement drove home a mantra that CMIOs should make a note of: Know. Your. Audience.
Moderated by founder/author of "The Healthcare Blog," Matthew Holt, via Skype, panelists Mark Johnson, vice president of sales at SeeChange Health Solutions and John Whyte, MD, MPH, chief medical expert at the Discovery Channel, discussed the need to engage the patient meaningfully in healthcare reform and population health initiatives.
Holt began the panel stating that, over the past number of years, there has been an explosion of health data where a sea change is working itself out going from a content-driven environment where consumers take in general information towards a personalized information environment that drills down to individual needs. This change includes being able to check up on diagnoses, track physicians' practice patterns and access information to follow up on care.
This results in the physician-patient relationship moving away from a point intervention (i.e., a patient visiting an office) foundation towards continued interaction between the patient and physician using tools like cloud computing, email and live video interaction.
Holt stated that patients using social media can engage themselves within a community of similarly diagnosed patients, whether they are within their physical region or not, thereby creating effective sources of illness information through fellow patients.
Yet, in terms of social media patient engagement, as Whyte asserted, just because you build a ballpark doesn’t mean anyone will come to play ball. Rather, there needs to be a concerted effort to engage patients. Previously working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Whyte mentioned that TV data helped him learn a lot on how to target a message to an audience.
He shared data positing more people watch TV than use the internet for consuming video outside of work on a monthly average (287 million for 158 hours versus 191 million for 26 hours, respectively). Therefore, this information allows him to know TV is a better method to generally get a message to people through videos.
There’s a perception that everything has to be on mobile devices, said Whyte, before sharing data that most people don’t watch long videos on mobile phones and the average time on a mobile phone is two to three minutes for a video. He said if he wanted to get a message across via a mobile platform, he couldn’t make a video longer than two to three minutes. “You can’t watching dancing cats for more than 30 seconds.”
He also stated that audiences can be broken down by race, ethnicity and age. For example, he stated 18- to 34-year-old females are the most active social networkers and are moms who blog actively use social media. Men are more likely to use LinkedIn and bloggers on average make $75,000 a year, he stated.
On the device side, Whyte noted that more people are using devices like smartphones for games, not health apps. This information helps in knowing how to get a piece of information out to a targeted audience, he said. If he wants to target information about human papillomavirus, or HPV, to moms, a major push of information on the subject wouldn’t be rolled out to a smartphone app but rather people would get the information on the blogosphere where moms will actively interact with each other.
That's not to say that information shouldn’t be pushed out to a smartphone app. Whyte reminded audience members that the information is vital to share in various mediums but organizations should not think of them as ends themselves but rather focus concerted efforts on where the targeted audience will interact with the information.
So how can one engage with patients meaningfully? Whyte said people don’t want to be preached to. Johnson reminded the audience early in his presentation that as organizations think through what they are trying to deliver and achieve in the face of healthcare reform, it’s important to remember the consumer. He said engagement needs to be clear, simple and easy to use for a patient. “You have to keep the action simple,” Johnson said. “Make it easy for the consumer. If an action is too complicated, there’s more room for confusion.”
The panel concluded by agreeing that organizations need to know the audience they are targeting when rolling out patient engagement strategies.