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The Threefold Path to Patient Engagement - Part 1
Posted: 5/24/2011 11:01:30 AM
by Amir Kishon, CEO | with 0 comments

Healthcare is different and Facebook, successful as it is in connecting us all, shows abysmal results when it comes to engaging patients. Why is this the case? 

If you build it, they will not come.

By now we all know of Web 2.0. Most companies understand that their sites need to offer much more than just nice content ("Glorious brochure-wares"). Web 2.0 guides us towards interactivity as king and recommends sites that offer powerful online tools, a social support environment and personalized content. 
However, it turns out that building a Tools x Info x Community site usually yields for healthcare companies single digit engagement (< 5% of their total population). This renders the whole exercise of building an online patient destination as just a nice benign little marketing play. The results are so miniscule that nobody usually even cares to measure them.

Somehow, teams that are in charge of building online destinations for healthcare companies are excused for just delivering less than 1% engagement, a position that is quite rare when you get to companies that focus on real consumer engagement. A team at Apple or Google that delivers < 1% engagement usually is immediately sent back to the drawing board or relieved of its duties.

What is Engagement?

So what is real patient engagement?

We offer the following definition for online and mobile:


  1. Capturing your network, customers and target audience
  2. Converting your members into "frequent flyers" and contributing individuals
  3. Sustaining members overtime
  4. Changing the behavior of your users towards specific goals

All these should capture meaningful chunks of the total population. Towards the end of this blog we will share what we believe are target numbers to aim for with regards to each one of these goals. 

Getting Serious

So, we want to get serious and actually engage patients... What to do? Wellness Layers and its management, for the last 15 years, have built several of the largest health and wellness destinations (Nutrisystem, CBS/Medscape consumer portal, Lifetime Fitness, Medifast, and to name a few). We continuously discover that in order to achieve meaningful engagement you need 3 key layers: 

  • A social support layer ("We" Layer)
  • A personal apps and plan layer ("Me" Layer)
  • A personalized content layer ("Info" Layer)

But as the preceding paragraph claims, this is not enough. Beyond the necessity of having these 3 layers, a good architecture needs to make sure that each one of these layers is done RIGHT as well as each layer should cross-feed the other layers. To sum this up:

The Threefold Path to Engagement

  • #1 Right Social Media
  • #2 Right Personal Apps
  • #3 Right Content    

In this blog we will discuss exactly what "right" means for each part of this important triad.

We will start with Right Social Media.

What Lady Gaga is doing between 2am to 3am   

We are great fans of Facebook. It is brilliant and powerful. Nevertheless, when you measure how health and wellness companies are doing on Facebook compared to other markets, you may immediately be compelled to scream "Houston, we have a problem!"

Let's co
mpare two of the biggest names in entertainment and healthcare, Lady Gaga and Mayo clinic:

OK, so we all know that Lady Gaga is huge, but how come one of the leading healthcare institutions in the country only has 43,417 fans? We all know that there are tens of millions of patients with significant chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, cardiac, weight loss problems, etc. These patients are living with their conditions day and night and are highly engaged facing their conditions.

Why are these patients not there? Why is it that one of the leading health institutions in the country, a consumer brand, yields the same number of fans that Lady Gaga captures in 1 hour during off peak hours? This does not compute.


Here is a little exercise. Go to your Facebook page and read what your friends are talking about there. We will wait until you come back.

You are back. Great! How many of these posts were about serious health problems? I have done my little survey, and here are my results:

My page statistics: 

  • Family and friends news - 17 posts
  • Links to content - 16 posts
  • Business - 5 posts
  • Trips - 4 posts
  • Entertainment - 4 posts
  • Thoughts and misc - 3 posts
  • Health challenges - 0 posts!

Being a bit of a generalist here, most conversations on Facebook are light-hearted and meant mostly to celebrate personal life. We hardly find a post that shares anything that is remotely related to the experiences of deep health or emotional challenges. 


This is actually quite understandable, who in his or her right mind wants to share deep emotional and physical challenges with college friends and the rest of the world on Facebook? 


We love the work of Mark Zuckerberg, but the results of healthcare companies on Facebook present a clear case against Facebook as the main destination for such support. Later we will discuss how actually one can use Facebook and other social media destinations to support the right approach.


Right Social Media


We all know that patients actually want to talk and share experiences and garner support. Chronic conditions are taxing and uncertain to manage and patients do yearn to share emotions, tips, information, stories, etc. So how can we tap into the power of social media and do it RIGHT?


Next Time: Right Social Media

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