Healthcare Consumerism must be fueled by smart data integration and analytics

by Bill Harriss on December 16, 2009

Bob McCarron

Bob McCarron

According to the Pew Research Center, back in 2000, 46% of American adults had access to the Internet, 5% of U.S. households had broadband connections and 25% of American adults looked online for health information. Today, 74% of American adults go online, 57% of American households have broadband connections and 61% of adults look online for health information. Those are big numbers and the growth will change healthcare!

Today a patient experiences a set of symptoms or learns of a possible condition and it’s off to “Dr. Google.”   A growing number of people say the Internet has played a crucial or important role in helping another person cope with a major illness. This revolution in Healthcare has been called Health 2.0, Participatory Medicine, e-health – all of these speak to the underlying reality that patients supported with digital technologies are seeking information and exercising control over their health choices.

Given the ubiquity of digital media and the frustrating nature of healthcare today, it’s no surprise that we’re witnessing a digital patient movement.  Consider these figures from the same Pew Research Study on e-patients, featured in a landmark whitepaper published in 2007 by the e-Patient Scholars Working Group.

-       93 percent of e-patients (patients using the Internet) said that it was important that the Internet made it possible to get the medical information they needed when it was most convenient for them.

-       92 percent said that the medical information they found was useful.

-       91 percent of e-patients looked for information on a physical illness.

-       83 percent of e-patients said that it was important that they could get more health information online then they could get from other sources.

Vastly more data is being generated by all this activity!

Given all this networking activity, it follows that healthcare providers must be able to answer, “Yes” to two fundamental questions:

  • Do I have the information and help that patients and their families seek?
  • Am I making it available to them in the time and place of need?

Truth is, these questions represent an ongoing challenge for healthcare providers.  Many providers are responding.  Many are not.

Customer data integration for engagement and transformation

The larger healthcare providers and health insurance companies all need to initiate a Customer Data Integration Strategy and Plan.  If that sounds complex, worry not, there are some easy steps providers can take. There are some basic actions set a course for positive, significant adaptation to the e-patient revolution. To get the ball rolling, we suggest doing five things:

1. Form a Customer Engagement strategy.  Don’t be thrown by the word strategy.  All we’re suggesting is identifying…

A) The Who — the patients/members and other key stakeholders

B) The What — the information and help they seek

C) The How — the channels we can deliver through, especially digital, direct mail, contact center

2. Form a Customer Engagement taskforce. Marketing, IT and Operations all need to be on the same page when delivering the right experiences for consumers.

3. Conduct an Engagement Maturity Assessment – Determine where you are today from an engagement standpoint. Then look at the following key areas to determine how far along you are:

  • Customer data management
  • Application of customer targeting and analytics
  • Campaign management
  • Customer-focused messaging
  • Marketing technology

Once you have an idea of how capable you are in these areas, your organization can begin to create a “customer engagement roadmap” that moves you ahead of the competition. While building in key metrics about organizational benefits, expected return on investment, timelines, existing staff, gaps, needs for external partners.

4. Distribute the learning. Becoming consumer focused is a journey and it will not happen overnight. All areas of the company need to understand the importance of becoming customer focused.

5. Build a process, not a program.  Make sure that there are monthly, quarterly and annual reviews with key executive management and operational team members.

Once you’ve been at it for several months, it’s likely that you’ll see the way forward.  You’ll learn.  Your caring culture will evolve naturally and the next steps can be made clear.

It’s only the beginning, but these real actions can deepen your understanding, engagement and ability to deliver care. It’s time to join the digital-patient revolution.


e-Patient Scholars Working Group

About the Author:

Bob McCarron is the Financial Services and Insurance Practice Leader at SIGMA Marketing Group. Connect with Bob on , or follow him on .

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