In France every region has its raison d'être, that thing which sets it apart and brings it global fame and fortune. In Burgundy, they enjoy the perfect conditions for growing grapes that lead to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wine.

While Burgundy is distinguished by being home to some of the most delicious wine on the planet, it unfortunately shares many of the same problems as provincial areas the world over. The younger generation is being lured away to larger towns and cities, leaving behind an ageing population and a growing number of patients with comorbidities.

So when the French government was looking for areas in which to implement pilot projects that would help it pioneer the transformation of its healthcare sector from hospital-centric to patient-centric, Burgundy was an obvious choice. The key requirement was to ensure that the patient is placed at the centre of care by creating a total population health solution that included an open platform capable of aggregation, storing and analysing data, as well as applications that surface data in real-time to clinicians, patients and members of their circle of care (including family members who may live in distant cities).

Now it’s one thing to put the technology in place, but quite another to ensure it gets the best use. We can all think of deployments which adopted the ‘build it and they will come’ approach, and nobody did. But what has set the Burgundy pilot apart is its approach to patient engagement. The local government understood that the first step to delivering new and improved models of care is to convince the patients themselves to proactively engage in their own health outcomes.

And Burgundy is not alone. This approach is occurring in Paris and in the national health services of Scotland, Northern Ireland, as well as the Republic of Ireland. Government agencies in these areas are adopting the view that patient engagement is a most critical strategy for ensuring better healthcare outcomes. At its heart it means paying close attention to patient on-boarding, which is actually a very easy process and typically it involves the following four steps:

1. Define the model of care you want the patient to engage with – e.g. Burgundy identified its distributed population issue and introduced an online patient portal that could be accessed from computers and mobile devices, to allow the extended family to monitor their loved one, wherever they lived.

2. Start with a simple scope for the patient - the priority is to get them using digital tools for basic tasks, like reviewing their medications or checking when their next appointment is to reading up on the latest article relating to their own set of conditions.

3. While clinical leadership is also critical, educating clinicians, patients and their extended family on the benefits of the use of digital tools in engaging their patients is crucial and often an overlooked focus point.

4. Eventually, as adoption lifts and users grow accustomed to accessing their health records online, adding richer functionality that improves the coordination and delivery of care will ensure clinicians and patients start to build a constructive dialogue of care management through tasks and goals.

It's a simple enough approach, but success comes from a well thought though go-to-market, patient adoption and citizen awareness plan - often overlooked. Not in Burgundy though - the residents of that beautiful region of France now have another reason to celebrate. Find out more about Orion Health’s patient engagement applications here.