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Improving patient engagement equal parts technology, empathy

Brian Eastwood | Oct. 16, 2013
Improving efficiency and cutting costs in healthcare means better collaborating with patients. Web portals and mobile applications can help, but only if they connect with the myriad systems that doctors actually use. Organizations can't forget that a little empathy goes a long way, too.

A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way
Such mobile health apps - and there are tens of thousands, with more coming every day - do serve a tangible purpose. Unfortunately, says Amy Cueva, founder and chief experience officer at design firm Mad*Pow, the vast majority of those apps are disparate from the siloed healthcare ecosystem. (Of course, the patient portals that are part of the ecosystem are often just offshoots of EHR systems, which don't lend themselves to innovation.)

However, linking such apps to patient portals - and turning portals into "centers of information" that give patients tools to better manage the lifestyle changes that often accompany a new diagnosis - will help organizations fill an unmet need, Cueva says. "Empathy can fuel innovation," she says, and understanding when patients feel most overwhelmed in the care process helps organizations provide support when and where it's needed most.

Accomplishing this means changing that ecosystem. The tremendous promise of big data isn't being met, Cueva says, because there are no "bridges" connecting all the information that will improve patient care.

It's not just IT systems, either: Hospital cardiology departments, government researchers, the American Cardiology Association and a patient's employer should all be able to share information about a particular patient .

"The transactional nature of the health system is all about the in-person visit," Cueva says. "Where we see technology not being leveraged, or solutions not being designed, is to maintain an ongoing conversation or level of engagement with the patient."

It's not hard to spot the healthcare organizations that get this right, Rohde says. From the signs throughout the hospital to the cafeteria menu to the location and condition of the patient parking lot, she says, "It's clear from the minute you walk in the door that it's a complete strategy from beginning to end. They see patient engagement as a strategy of running a healthcare institution with patients in mind, which starts at the top ... and permeates everything they do."


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