Health Dialog Connections

How Mobile Technology and Social Media Can Impact Patient Engagement

A man using a patient engagement app to improve his health

To paraphrase a Health Affairs policy brief, patient engagement is a strategy to achieve the "triple aim" of improved health outcomes, better patient care, and lower costs. Similarly to every other human interaction, “patient engagement” has also been impacted by the advances in mobile technology and the omnipresent social media.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center paints an interesting picture:

  • 90% of adult Americans own a cell phone; 58% own a smartphone.
  • 31% of cell phone owners and 52% of smartphone owners have used their phone to look up health or medical information.
  • The same report found that health consumers are very interested in managing their health. In fact, 60% of U.S. adults say they track their weight, diet, or exercise routine, and seven in ten adults track at least one health indicator (blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.).

These findings suggest that mobile technology is becoming highly central to the shift to patient-centered and value-based care—and providers have already taken notice. A recent survey conducted by HIMSS on the adoption of mobile technology by more than 200 care providers finds that nearly 90% of them use mobile devices to engage patients via app-enabled patient portals (73%), telehealth services (62%) and text communications (57%).

While direct patient-provider communication remains sacrosanct, the spread of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) and online health information (forums, search engines, etc.) has transformed the way a patient seeks and obtains health literacy. As per Pew Research Center, 72% of internet users searched online for health information within the past year and the most commonly-researched topics include specific diseases, treatments, procedures, doctors and other health professionals. Social media is increasingly becoming a place for informal, yet vital information exchange for patients (to research their conditions, participate in virtual communities, connect with other patients with similar conditions, etc.) and for the providers (to promote patient healthcare education, distribute evidence based information, etc.). “Patients Like Me” and “Mayo Clinic’s Healthcare Social Media” are two examples for such social media avenues. Though social media is not a completely appropriate form for direct patient-provider communication, it can bridge the health literacy gaps and direct patients to secure communication channels.

Nonetheless there is a challenge in the form of information overload or even misinformation. Hence this powerful amalgam of mobile technology and social media presents a unique opportunity for personalized, targeted, secure, and most importantly, clinically sound communication and engagement with patients. Any decision-support or patient engagement technology implemented should be mobile accessible, user-friendly, and clinically intuitive to promote healthy behaviors and realize the ultimate aim of improved health outcomes.

To that end, with a Care Pathways based patient engagement strategy, Health Dialog can help Inform(arm the consumer with personalized and timely health information), Transform (guide the consumer through behavior change) and Perform (achieve tangible improvements in health outcomes) for each individual of its catering population, one person at a time.

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