The paradigm shift in patient engagement requires a completely new mindset. Instead of ‘pushing’ tools and communication channels to patients top-down, significant breakthroughs could be achieved by bottom-up approach and creating a ‘pull’ effect. This is possible if we co-design solutions and services with citizens and local communities.
Just like marketers are trying to get closer to consumers by omnichannel approach, healthcare could do the same and be more integrated to our daily lives. The more focus we have on population health, prevention and factors like social determinants or life style, the more bottom-up development is needed. Obviously, private and confidential matters require separate, private communication channels, but for health education purposes social media offers many opportunities and can work as a low-threshold service for general health support. Already we see that citizens are proactively creating peer-groups around health-related topics on e.g. Facebook, but the presence of health professionals on these groups are quite low or even non-existent.
One concrete and easy step for health care professionals and service providers might be interacting with patients and citizens through the channels and platforms they are already using outside health care setting. In Finland, we have seen some interesting pilot projects that have utilized popular social media channels successfully. For example, having a school nurse available at Snapchat has generated trust capital and enabled more open discussions between the nurses and students.
In addition to traditional ways of communication, like F2F-appointments, peer-group meetings or phone calls, there are lot of untapped potential in digital channels like smartphone apps, online peer groups or chat services. But to achieve higher level of patient engagement, the mindset change is a top priority. We need to be proactive in building interaction with people the system serves. This means enabling bottom-up development by giving more control and power to citizens that are the core of the whole health system. Engagements starts by empowerment.
At the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference, a session called “Engaging all stakeholders including patients and families” has caught my attention and I hope to see you there to continue together this conversation!