Let’s think about today’s patients as consumers. Consumers of an essential service – healthcare.

In many industries there are transformational technologies that help consumers to engage with various aspects of their lives such as reading the latest news, chatting to friends online, booking travel, banking, shopping, investing, the list is endless. However, healthcare has lagged behind in making this transformation and it’s time to change the way we think about our users. 

Patients are just like consumers in the way that they will experience a ‘moment of truth’, borrowing from the advertising term, during a healthcare visit when they are most likely to engage with the service. In an ideal world, a patient perhaps in hospital or in a waiting room at a clinic would receive a message on their smart phone presenting them with the option to view their personal shared care record that they can engage with in real-time. That would be the ‘moment of truth’ where they recognise an obvious need to become connected with their health information, seeing the value in registering for the service.

This is why the region of Paris has essentially marketed a patient engagement solution trial to their citizens, instead of organisations. Just like consumers engage with brands, patients need to engage with their healthcare in near real-time to take the lead on their own care. 

The Parisian providers have been promoting access to their Portable Health Record directly to their residents, skipping the clinicians-as-marketers phase that can be inefficient and overly complex. Encouraging citizens to sign-up through a secure, centralised coordination team in Paris is similar to a retailer building an email database. It allows the provider to establish and maintain relationships with their customers and is likely to improve the overall health of the population, as patients have more incentive to engage with their health.

Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Scotland, a facility that caters to patients all across the country, has also successfully implemented a patient engagement program. The hospital had an ongoing issue with patients turning up for acute procedures unprepared. As they weren’t engaged with their care, they had not prepared well enough for the surgery, and as a result it had to be cancelled, wasting clinicians’ time and providers’ money.

In an effort to boost engagement, Golden Jubilee is trialling Orion Health’s Patient Portal. Patients in the Congenital Cardiac Service are now registered and given access to the portal before their procedure so they can view and plan for appointments and share their medical history with clinicians via clinical letters. 

Future updates will allow patients in the Orthopaedic cohort to receive electronic questionnaires leading up to the procedure, reminding and encouraging them to adhere to the required preparation. This empowers the patient to take control of the pre and post-acute care management, while the hospital monitors their readiness for procedures. Now in Golden Jubilee National Hospital, like in other service industries, the consumer is in control and has access to all their information. 

Relationships are key to consumer engagement, and this solution encourages the patient to develop communication with their care team and provider. If the hospital is constantly checking up on the patient in a personalised way, they feel more connected to their healthcare and are more likely to adhere to preparation instructions. Patients need to understand the value of communicating with their care team, to buy-into the idea of engaging with their health in real-time, just as they do with almost every other aspect of their life.