Tracking the Patient Journey – From Engaged to Empowered to Activated

Patient engagement is the cornerstone of value-based care, and increasingly we’re seeing patients becoming – and more importantly wanting to become – more engaged in their own healthcare. But to encourage patients to take greater control over their healthcare and interact more effectively with their clinicians, they need to move from being engaged to empowered to activated.

By Clive Flashman, Global Head of Mobility for Healthcare and Life Sciences, DXC

One way that this can be achieved is through technology – specifically patient-facing applications that transform the health and care journey. The question is, for patients to be engaged, empowered, and then activated, what do the defining characteristics of such an app need to be?

First, it helps to understand what is meant by these terms:

  • Engagement – an engaged patient has access to relevant and meaningful information about themselves, making them willing to be more involved in their care decisions.
  • Empowerment – once the relevant information is made available to them, patients are empowered when they are included by their care providers in the decision-making process.
  • Activation – an activated patient makes decisions about their own health and wellness based on the best information available to them, working collaboratively with care providers. Activated patients are not afraid to challenge decisions made by their physicians.

So, to answer our question about the characteristics required of an app, let’s look at things that have become indispensable to many people, such as Facebook. The reasons so many people are hooked on Facebook are that it’s instant, it taps into people’s network, and it allows people to engage with that network and share information they wish to share.

Think now about health and wellness apps. While those who are very active and proud of what they are doing are happy to interact with such apps, it’s less certain that consumers who are struggling with their weight or calorie intake will want to share such information, and it may well be that being asked over and over to share this information will be regarded as an intrusion. There’s a very fine line in the way an app engages the network of people around the user.

How then, do we go about improving the “stickiness” of healthcare apps and make them powerful tools on the patient’s journey from engagement to empowerment to activation?

By stickiness, I don’t just mean adoption but also prolonged use. While a survey by Endeavour Partners of 6,223 adults in the United States found one in 10 consumers aged 18 and over owns a health and fitness wearable device, the drop-out rate is high: more than half soon stop using their activity tracker and a third gave up on the device and app entirely after 6 months. According to a study from Localytics, 23% of users abandon an app after their first use.

Seeing the Value

To engender long-term use, an app must provide immediate benefit: What does the consumer get out of using the app? A second priority is usability: People won’t engage with apps that aren’t intuitive. The third is meaningful information access: Does the app provide information or functionality that the consumer can use right away and that is valuable to them?

This information might include an overview of where and when the user has healthcare appointments scheduled across multiple facilities. Other invaluable information would be seeing an extract of their own health record and being able to view their care plan and use that information to discuss with their clinician how they are progressing. And if the patient or healthcare consumer can gather all their own data in a simple dashboard so they can quickly view how they are progressing on their healthcare journey, they are starting to become an engaged patient – one who better understands their health and wellness.

Such tools also add value to the way clinicians interact with their patients. While typically clinicians believe their direct engagement with the patient will produce the most objective and valuable view, information is generally more useful closer to the time it was taken. Information that patients collect about themselves will be up-to-date and so useful when continuing healthcare conversations with the clinician.

There is another area where an app could provide significant value, and that is with building a dynamic patient risk profile. While the sort of data that is used to build a risk score for a patient is collected from their physician, if that information could be layered with data that the patient is collecting on themselves it would be possible to develop dynamic risk scoring that is continuously updated whenever a patient logs new information. While that will always be subject to how forthright that patient is about their health behavior, the information will be indicative of the patient’s state of health and wellness at that point of time.

Ultimately, patients will use an app and become engaged, empowered and activated if it’s in their own personal interest. If there is significant benefit to them in doing so and if it improves their lives in some way – in the way that using a financial app to quickly see their bank balance or using a travel app to book a holiday does – then that app will become an indispensable tool in their health journey.

In my latest blog, I address the issue of patient contextualization. How to better engage, empower and activate the patient by providing them with information that is relevant to their circumstances and where they are on their healthcare journey.


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