Patient and consumer engagement: Redefining a relationship - Emmi

December 22, 2015 — Blog Post

Patient and consumer engagement: Redefining a relationship

Check out this excerpt from Scottsdale Institute’s Inside Edge publication featuring Emmi Senior Vice President of Client Experience Shara Cohen.

When Scottsdale Institute launched the SI Patient/Consumer Engagement Adoption Model™ and the SI Patient/Consumer Engagement Assessment© earlier this year, we frankly didn’t expect any organizations to stand out in practical implementation of consumer-centric strategies for a traditionally hospital-centric industry. We were wrong. While to date most participating health systems have scored on the second level of the five-level model (one is basic and five the most sophisticated) a few—all SI members—scored near the top. We are fortunate in being able to feature two of these leading health systems in this Inside Edge.

We talk to teams from Trinity Health and Cedars-Sinai to share best practices in this evolving endeavor. Our discussion also includes an expert from SI Sponsor Emmi, which counsels providers in engaging patients and consumers.

Health system-executives are invited to participate in the SI Patient/Consumer Engagement Assessment© to see where their organization scores within the SI Patient/Consumer Engagement Adoption Model™. To measure your success and progress in engaging patients and consumers visit There is no cost, results are private and multiple participants from a health system are allowed.

Where is your organization on this journey? Find out by taking the assessment.

A ‘mystery’

“What patient and consumer engagement means is still a mystery,” says Shara Cohen, Senior VP at Chicago-based Emmi, a provider of patient-engagement solutions and an SI Sponsor. “There’s no consistent definition and that means healthcare organizations are often confused. Success is a moving target.”

A big challenge for even top-performing organizations is that they’re often not judged against their peers by consumers. Rather than healthcare standards, they will be judged against experiences with consumer products and the retail industry. “There’s a tremendous distance between the two worlds,” she says, which makes the demand on organizations bigger and more pressing than often thought.

Still, there’s a growing imperative in healthcare: if you cannot engage people and develop a relationship over time, someone else will. “Increasingly, patient engagement is not a nice-to-have. You have to be able to nurture a relationship with people in your catchment area,” says Cohen.

That’s much more than engaging patients during hospital rounds or how providers relate to patients generally. “When you think about the scope of a population, it’s a completely different cultural challenge,” she says. “Organizations are used to thinking, ‘How can I impact the person in front of me?’ That’s not enough anymore. When you focus on the top 1 percent of high-cost patients the traditional care-management model works, but it doesn’t scale when you’re accountable for the other 99 percent. That ability to scale is what everybody is talking about but not effectively implementing yet.”

Culture over technology

“For all the discussion regarding technology, patient and consumer engagement is more of a cultural issue than a technology one. You have to communicate outside the direct provider/patient relationship but reinforce that relationship. And that relationship can be disintermediated by new competitors—non-traditional providers, retail pharmacies, consumer websites and others. It’s incredibly tricky.”

Key is for senior leadership to commit the patient resources required at the level of population and community health. Communicating messages that support care plans and delivery outside the clinical environment is a critical element. “Not sending people to Google to figure it out on their own,” says Cohen, noting that such communication involves two components:

  1. Quality communication that’s patient-centered and imbued with behavioral marketing and educational science;
  2. Technology to enable that delivery and measurement of effectiveness.

Organizations must ask how they best deploy that technology to effectively communicate those messages.

“We can’t apply old solutions to new challenges. Organizations need to consider how they’re making investments in patient and consumer engagement and who is empowered to implement them. The risk is that we delegate these decisions and the action to people invested in or limited by the status quo.

Also, organizations underestimate the cultural shift required for their staff. At a practical level organizations can quickly devolve into inaction. The reason organizations like Trinity Health and Cedars-Sinai will be successful is because executive leadership has made the decision and they’re steadfast to make it happen on the local level,” she says.

Visit Scottsdale Institute’s website for more information.

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  • Bottom Line Blog

Bottom Line is the final word in patient engagement for healthcare executives.