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The Threefold Path to Patient Engagement – Part 2: Right Social
Posted: 7/27/2011 11:01:00 AM
by Amir Kishon, CEO | with 0 comments
In my last blog I discussed the challenges with traditional social media as it relates to healthcare. The fact that Facebook and other global social services are not the right venues for social health does not mean that patients lost their need for emotional support or their desire to share their challenges, victories and stories with other fellow patients. This begs the question, what is the right social media for healthcare?

The Right Social Media

Social was not invented in the 80s, 90s, or 2000s, actually us humans have always been social. The internet and social media is just yet another very powerful channel to cater for our social needs. In order to understand what online social constructs work for patients, it is helpful for us to look at what worked in the past.
In the world of behavior modification and engagement, there are a few successful approaches that produced significant positive results. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Weight Watchers meetings are two of the most known and successful models. When we look at the social dynamics in such meetings, it is apparent that these meetings are not randomly structured.

We identify the following characteristics:
  1. Group members are all sharing the same condition or challenge. Usually experts also participate to guide and support the members.
  2. Meetings are not public and they are done in closed groups.
  3. The discussions are focused on the specific issues that relate to the group’s interest and experiences.
  4. There is a plan and personal guidance for the individual to follow, which can be shared with the group.
We believe that these tried-and-true social approaches show us the path for the right healthcare social media strategy. 

The Right Social Media check list:

• #1: Closed community (vs. public).
• #2: Comprises only of peers and experts (and potentially close family & friends).
• #3: Provides the social functionality to share specific experiences and information.
• #4: Includes a personal plan or guidance which can be shared.

By closing the community and creating a social environment that is uniform and focused, we are able to recreate the AA or Weight Watchers meeting environment online, and this leads to a successful social approach. Our data shows that the traditional social dynamics applied online prove effective: the move from generic social architecture and public social media outlets to a closed and focused social environment yields up to an 800% increase in participation by users within a few months of launching such an environment.

Should we forget about Facebook? Twitter?

Definitely not! Patients sometimes want to share with “the world” their successes, challenges and stories. However, the sharing of intimate narratives should be at the sole discretion of the patient. Thus, a closed community may allow patients to opt-in and share their narratives with the world i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc. Moreover, the public social media outlets can be a wonderful place to create a public destination that will funnel patients to the private community.

Based on our experience, this closed-open approach provides for a strong win-win social strategy for healthcare companies.

The Right Apps

We have the right social media strategy, is this enough to create engagement? Indeed, we are social animals, but we are also quite egocentric. Despite the appeal of the “We” component, we are always very much interested in the “Me”. Enter the world of personal apps.

Personal apps are highly important. Our data continuously show that over 80% of end users consider the personal management applications as the most important element of an engagement site. Such numbers outgrow the numbers for social. Indeed, many companies realize the importance of personal management apps and consequently decide to offer “trackers”, “calculators” and “widgets” to their patients. However, this naïve approach yields only disappointments. Why?

Trackers, Calculators and Widgets alone do not engage

Users expect to achieve something with their personal apps rather than just “play” with online tools. With disjointed tools, users may come but they will not stay - there is no stickiness, nor any long term value.  You will not get real engagement from having fragmented and disjointed apps. Let’s look at an example.

Take my bank account for instance. What do we see?

There’s a menu of actionable information and transactions i.e. my accounts, payments, transfers, investments, etc.; and user-friendly tools to help track and monitor my finances, I can actually accomplish things within this environment which is truly an extension of my bank. Imagine if all that was provided was an “interest calculator”.

By the way, if banks were healthcare companies, my online banking will probably look more like this:

The layout would be information centric with a lot of information and many tabs leading me to more information with a few investment calculation tools. Would you choose this bank if you could not access your account via online or mobile? In a patient-centric healthcare system, such online/mobile services will become significantly competitive services as much as actual care. Integrated online apps can help extend care, just like online banking extends your ability to manage your finances.

So why don’t we see these same integrated personal applications in the health industry? Why is healthcare so behind? How can we tap into the power of personal apps and do it RIGHT?

Next Time: Right Apps
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