By Guest Editor Pamela Swingley, Mobile PRM

Pam is a health technology expert who has, along with her team, developed a one-of-a-kind platform to help patients manage their overall health. For details go to where you will see the platform goes far beyond medication reminders and fully into behavior change. This post reflects Pam’s thinking on what goes into making an effective patient engagement initiative from the digital perspective. Heads up life sciences folks – THIS is how you do it!

The right patient engagement technology can help your organization boost medication adherence, improve patient retention, deliver a better marketing ROI, and most importantly improve patient outcomes.

However, without proper planning and experienced partners, your implementation will likely fizzle out. Listed below are a few do’s and don’ts of patient engagement.

DO Put the Patient First

Whatever engagement strategy you put in place, make sure it fits the needs of the patient. Achieving your goals is dependent on the patient engaging in your service.

No matter how beautiful, technical, or medically sophisticated your application is, if patients don’t use it, your investment is wasted.

Millions of lines of engineering code have been written to solve problems no one has. Most mobile health apps have a handful of users. To increase adoption of your patient engagement solution, take into consideration:

Value to the patient. It really is all about “what’s in it for me”. Does your product solve a problem your customers have? Does it fulfill a social human need? Is it rewarding?
We believe starting with medication adherence brings the greatest value to all stakeholders. There are many ways to improve adherence. And once you engage with patients multiple times a day through reminders to take medications, you can follow with other valuable communications.

Ease of use. Follow the KISS (keep-it-simple-stupid) principle, from sign-up to support, to cancellation.
Flexibility. One size does not fit all. How each patient uses your application will vary. For example when it comes to medication management, patients want to be able to manage all types of medications. They expect to receive communications through multiple channels. They want to track a variety of health metrics and goals, and they want the service to evolve as their health changes.
Accessibility. Ensure your services are accessible on the leading platforms, both mobile and desktop.
Affordability. Having a chronic illness is expensive enough. Making your patient engagement services free to patients is good for them, and good for you as you will have more users to engage with.
Control. Users should always have complete control over the services they opt in to, how to receive communications, and who can access their account information.
Connections. People want to be able to connect with others, enable this.
Push communications. Don’t expect patients to log in to use your application, you need to push content often to keep them engaged.
DO Leverage the Pervasive Power of Smartphones

Just a few years ago there was considerable debate on smartphone adoption, and the potential of mobile health. Smartphones won that argument for now. Tablets are closing in rapidly. Soon we may see a blending of the two.

Using smartphones, patient engagement solutions can drive personal behavioral change and improved patient experience for better health.

Some ways patient engagement solutions can help is to:

Help people take their medications correctly, increasing adherence.
Collect feedback from patients on how treatments are working.
Distribute highly targeted wellness information.
Connect patients to caregivers and healthcare providers.
Build 1:1 marketing relationships for cross-selling medications and services.
Consolidate health information for a more complete view of patient health.
Collect data related to bio-metrics and goals.
Reward patients for behavior changes that improve outcomes.
DO Build on a Platform

Connecting your mobile applications with a Health platform is an important component to usability. Patients don’t want to have to interact with multiple apps. They want all their data in one place. Aggregating data enables patients to learn more about their health. And healthcare stakeholders can learn more about actual patient behaviors.

DON’T Set It and Forget It

All industries are experiencing tremendous change driven by 24×7 internet access. However, we believe the industry experiencing the greatest stress is healthcare. Between government pressure to implement IT, lack of standards, stakeholders that do not play well together, patent cliffs, value-based healthcare, and a pervasive avoidance of change; the challenges are considerable.

With this is mind, by the time you’ve launched your app, it will already be outdated. Product flexibility should be built in from the start. In addition, you’ll need to keep a product roadmap for maintenance, new platforms, enhancements and integrations.

Unfortunately, building patient engagement technologies is not a one-time project.

DON’T Do it all Yourself

As a healthcare marketer or patient communication pro, software development is probably not in your job description. Building a sophisticated patient engagement service is not likely the core competence of your marketing agency either.

At first home grown applications are exciting. The engineering team is inspired to learn new skills and solve a new problem. Project managers have the opportunity to build their resumes. In a stable environment a homegrown system can last for decades.

But if your industry, and your needs change often, the homegrown application quickly becomes unwieldy and outdated. New resources are not available, and the current team is off to the next big thing. In the end your homegrown system becomes an expensive learning experience.

Instead of building your own, or using your advertising agency, turn to the pros.

Do Work with Enterprise Software Professionals

License the software from an experienced software company specializing in relationship management services or enterprise software. Most of these companies today are startups. This can be an advantage for you as you will pay less, and have an opportunity to shape the solution.

Another vendor source to watch are progressive online health media companies. These leaders are investing heavily in innovative patient engagement technologies.

For many companies, an ideal option is an on-demand solution where you pay a fee each month per user. Your software vendor will be responsible for ensuring the service supports multiple platforms, hosting it in a secure environment, evolve with market demands, and support the needs of your patients.

On demand pricing also means your costs will be more predictable and scale as you grow your user base. You will be able to get to market faster (within a few months) and you can cancel if you’re not satisfied.

Best of all, by not doing it all yourself, you will sleep better at night. Priceless.

DO Move Forward with Patient Engagement Solutions

Engaging patients is at the heart of strategies for improving the delivery of healthcare. Deploying engagement services that build sticky relationships puts your brand in the spotlight. Plus, you will build goodwill across the entire healthcare ecosystem.

Move forward, and tell the world. It’s always nice to be the good guy.

Learn more about transforming patient relationships,

Four Ways Pharma Manufacturers Can Calculate the ROI of Mobile Patient Engagement

Companies that treat patient engagement as a smart business investment, rather than view it as a purely technical project stand to gain the most value from an implementation.

Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of patient engagement services is not as simple as optimizing a Google AdWords campaign, analyzing CPM, or reviewing Nielson reports. It is closer to the type of analysis you would do for a CRM installation.

The ROI is there, and it may be much larger than you expect. You just have to know where to look, and what to measure.

Communicating with your patients via mobile health enables real-time engagement. You are able to instantly deliver information, get feedback, and improve your product usage. This type of real-time engagement can have a powerful impact on your ROI at the executive level.

First of all, there are obvious revenue enhancements through increase in scripts due to improved adherence, and more frequent refills. Mobile health solutions also create powerful sticky relationships that improve customer retention, and increase highly targeted cross-selling of related products or services.

Secondly, by collecting feedback from patients (anonymous and aggregated) you gain insight on how to improve product effectiveness through education, early alerts to risks, and patient education. This improves patient outcomes and may help to support the effectiveness of your medication with the plan providers.

A third benefit found in mobile patient engagement service is the cost reduction of direct patient communications. Through mobile applications you directly target patients with health information and incentives, reduce calls to the call center, slash snail mail expenses, and receive early alerts as to who is having compliance challenges

A fourth benefit often overlooked is the competitive advantage you gain by engaging with patients through a platform that supports their health management needs. Patients will only use one platform. You want it to be the one with your brand name on it. Although patients may use it to manage your competitor drugs as well, you own the communication channel and the direct patient relationship. This exclusive patient relationship gives you a distinct competitive advantage.

Apart from the above benefits, there will be countless intangible benefits in the long run. Patient engagement solutions contain the power to reduce healthcare costs – and by making these available to your patients, you’ll earn goodwill from their care network, providers, employers, and health plan providers.

Helping patients manage their health is a big deal. It’s important for the patients, for their family, for their employer and the entire healthcare system. It makes their doctor’s job easier. It lowers healthcare costs and it helps you offer better products and services.

The ROI from better adherence, reduced communication costs, targeted cross-selling, and positive, daily, brand awareness is enormous.

Early adopters of patient engagement solutions will reap the greatest rewards as they own the patient relationship, while laggards will struggle with higher marketing costs. Which category will your company belong to?

Learn more about transforming patient relationships,

Pamela Swingley, CEO, Mobile PRM

Marketing technologist, Pamela Swingley, has spent more than two decades helping businesses of all types adopt technologies that improve their performance. Pam’s contributed to the success of several technology companies, including ADP, Siebel Systems, and OnLink Technologies.

Today, as the CEO of Mobile PRM, Pam’s passion is to transform patient relationships through mobile services built on a patient-centric health platform that delivers improved outcomes at a lower cost.

Mobile PRM’s suite of patient relationship services improve medication adherence, support behavior changes, provide treatment feedback, distribute health information, and facilitate market research.

Most importantly, Mobile PRM helps people get well and stay well.

Pam holds a B.S. degree in Human Development from UC Davis and an MBA from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, CA.