Tag Archives: Guest Post

Personalized and Relevant Messages are Key to Successful Patient Engagement

Guest Post From The President of TeleVox Software

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we live in a society yearning for instant gratification. We expect to get information in the blink of an eye, the answers we need within minutes and material goods delivered prior to the date that was promised. But what may surprise you is that even through the desire to have this information so quickly, the importance of providing a personalized message remains one of consumers’ biggest wishes. For instance, studies show that tailoring the message to the needs of patients as well as personalizing the messages are key to successful high-tech patient engagement. In fact, according to a recent TeleVox Healthy World Report, Technology Beyond the Exam Room: How Digital Media Is Helping Doctors Deliver the Highest Level of Care, 50 percent of patients expect information to be personalized to their specific needs. In the age of instant feedback and heightened technology, it is interesting to know that patients still desire a personalized approach in terms of their healthcare.

The days of simply setting forth wellness plans based solely on numbers and stereotypes are past us. Patients are looking for communications that are relevant to their lives, and it is their expectation that healthcare professionals will take time to engage in this level of personalization. Know Your Health also found that 53 percent of patients expect communications to be relevant to them as individuals. Relevant patient engagement can include personalized interactions, individualized treatment plans, and follow up. Patients thrive on a feeling of importance, ranging from a doctor knowing their name and medical history when they walk in to a follow-up call or email after the appointment to continue that personal connection.

Think about this: According to the same report, 21 percent of the population will refuse information if it is not tailored specifically to them. And, further, 13 percent of patients surveyed report they will ignore information sent their way if it doesn’t have their name on it. Why would providers want to miss out on connecting with an important part of the population by simply not including their name on any communication to the patient?  Including this step can ensure patient engagement is successful and save valuable resources, as the information conveyed will have a better chance of being received by patients.

Finally, taking time to connect with patients outside of their yearly exams or scheduled check-ups is another important link in ensuring that patients make positive decisions that ensure a healthy future. 68 percent of the population would like to receive educational tips that will help them live a better life via email throughout the year. Many Americans are concerned with the direction of the overall health and well-being of the country, but still aren’t taking steps to get where they need to be. However, healthcare providers can take steps to tailor messages that are relevant and personalized to patients to ensure successful high-tech patient engagement, and ultimately a healthier America.

Scott Zimmerman is a regularly-published thought leader on engaging patients via ongoing communication between office visits. He is the President of TeleVox Software, Inc, a high-tech Engagement Communications company that provides automated voice, email, SMS and web solutions that activate positive patient behaviors by applying technology to deliver a human touch. Scott spearheads TeleVox’s Healthy World initiative, a program that leverages ethnographic research to uncover, understand and interpret both patient and provider points of view with the end goal of creating a healthy world–one person at a time. Zimmerman possesses 20 years of proven performance in the healthcare industry, with domain knowledge in the surgical, interventional and pharmaceutical arenas. Prior to joining TeleVox, Scott served for nine years at GE Healthcare in a variety of cross-functional and global leadership roles in sales, services, quality, marketing, pricing, finance and product development. Scott is a graduate of the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis.

Guest Post: Addressing the Correlation Btwn Health Literacy & Mortality In the Elderly

Medication and health management strategies are integral parts of patient care, but if those who need medical help can’t understand their instructions perfectly, the right procedures are lost on them. Health literacy is a growing concern, and it refers to one’s ability to read, process, and implement directions related to personal health care. Both the context of health-related communication and the skill level of health care providers are strong factors in health literacy, but it ultimately describes the comprehension abilities of someone on the receiving end of health care. In a study conducted by Dr. David Baker, MPH, and a team of researchers, it was found that inadequate health literacy contributes significantly to mortality rates among the elderly.

Health Literacy and Mortality Findings

Baker and his team administered a shortened version of the Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults to a pre-screened cohort of 3,260 Medicare managed-care enrollees. They then collected their data and categorized it into three sections: adequate, marginal, and inadequate health literacy. These results were then compared to all-cause and cause-specific mortality data from the National Death Index, 1997-2003. Although the category of elderly patients with adequate health literacy accounted for the majority of the cohort at 2,094 individuals, their mortality rate averaged only 18.9%. The group with marginal health literacy, which included 366 individuals, averaged a mortality rate of 28.7%, and the group with inadequate health literacy at 800 had a 39.4% mortality rate. Baker and his team found that the number of years of school completed by the subjects was barely associated with mortality, leaving reading and comprehension abilities as the main indicators in determining health literacy. A general lack of health-related knowledge, the ability to apply it, and wide variety of other “pathways” characterized those individuals with inadequate health literacy.

Ways to Address and Manage Health Literacy

According to health.gov, a page dedicated to the activities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other Federal departments and agencies, there are many ways to develop and deliver health information while maintaining awareness of health literacy. For example, information should be appropriate for the user audience and easy to use. It’s also important to speak clearly and listen carefully when communicating health-related information. The following are some strategies that may help pharmacists, doctors, and other health care professionals communicate information clearly to non-professionals and patients.

  • Be sure to identify a specific audience before you draft any health-related communication. Consider demographics, behavior, age, culture, communication capacities, and attitude, choosing materials and messages that address your audience’s characteristics.
  • Evaluate your communication by conducting usability testing. Test users before and after your information is delivered to see how much of it they can understand and repeat back to you.
  • Limit the number of messages you communicate at one time and use plain language that focuses on action. You can include pictures to help demonstrate important steps.
  • Improve the usability of information online. Make sure that patients know how to access the details of what you’re explaining by going to a specific webpage.  Be sure to use large font and uniform navigation to prevent confusion.
  • Ask open-ended questions and ask that your patients repeat the information back to you. You can also request that they act out a medication regimen in front of you before they have to do it on their own.

Baker, David W. et al. “Health Literacy and Mortality Among Elderly Persons.” Archives of Internal Medicine 167.14 (2007): 1503-1509.

Guest Blogger: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at  First in Education, researching online college degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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