Improving Patient Engagement With Digital Health Technology


Andriy Sambir, CEO of Linkup Studio.

Every healthcare entrepreneur aspires to see their digital health platforms or applications widely used. In 2021, however, research by Accenture found that 30% of patients selected a new healthcare provider, and 25% switched because they were unhappy. Of those who switched, 78% cited poor navigation factors, such as “inadequate digital solutions” and “difficulties in doing business,” as the reason for leaving.

As the CEO of a software development company that specializes in healthcare, I’ve seen how various technologies impact digital patient engagement. Stemming from my decade of experience, here are a few solutions healthcare providers can explore to improve patients’ engagement with their digital products.

1. Directly engage with patients via reminders.

The Accenture report also said, “71% of people cite access as a top factor in selecting a new provider.” People “value things like appointment availability, convenience, customer service and the ability to connect to their provider through their preferred channels.”

I once had a client who was inspired to create a digital platform for regular health check-up reminders, a concept stemming from his life-saving experience with a free health assessment notification. Patient engagement platforms can consider doing something similar and implementing features such as reminders for personal medication schedules, preventative health measures like vaccinations and screenings and post-physician follow-ups, for example.

2. For more niche specialties, consider personalization.

If your company specializes in niche, specific healthcare services, consider whether your digital health solution could offer personalized care plans. Asthma management apps are a good example. They can monitor inhaler usage and environmental triggers to offer more personalized advice for managing asthma. Ensure you strike a caring tone in notifications and messages; I’ve observed this can enhance patient engagement and lead to increased app usage, subscription purchases and clinic visits.

3. Explore telemedicine software.

Telehealth and telemedicine software are traditional methods to boost patient engagement. These allow home consultations, which can benefit those with mobility issues, those who live remotely or those with limited time. Virtual check-ins can also help facilitate regular monitoring and treatment adjustments to overcome long waits and distance barriers.

Another potentially effective yet indirect method to enhance patient engagement is by giving medical specialists more time for patient interactions, both online and offline. In pursuit of this, providers can explore solutions that help free up specialists’ time. Some providers are using artificial intelligence, for example, to automate notes after patient appointments to save hours otherwise spent on manual documentation.

4. Consider AI-powered solutions.

Artificial intelligence offers a range of opportunities for healthcare organizations looking to boost patient engagement. For example, these could include personalized consultations and AI-powered chatbots capable of explaining health conditions to patients in simple, non-technical terms.

From my company’s experience, we developed an AI-based solution for skin cancer management using technology for camera and photo analysis. The engagement rate for this tool was notably higher compared to the standard set of digital health tools and features we previously created for clinics.

However, I’m convinced each healthcare organization must consider various factors before implementing AI. I firmly believe that AI is not a magic bullet for all problems.

5. Leverage wearable devices.

Wearable devices play a significant role in health monitoring, diagnosis and treatment support. Your company can boost patient engagement by integrating your services with these gadgets.

Consider, for instance, that Statista research projects the number of smartwatch users is expected to reach more than 230 million by 2028. Reflecting on the past, back in 2015, Apple Watch owners were observed to glance at their wrists 60 to 80 times a day. Since such devices are constantly with users, incorporating them into your client interaction chain has the potential to significantly enhance your service experience for patients and lead to increased engagement, allowing you to connect with your patients more frequently.

A notable example is Cala Health’s watches, which are designed to treat tremors associated with certain diseases. A 2020 study found that more than 93% of users experienced at least a 50% reduction in tremor strength after using Cala’s device. I believe such effectiveness undoubtedly leads to increased device usage and patient engagement and satisfaction.

6. Add a gamified experience.

Beyond the software types and solutions already mentioned, there’s a highly effective, time-tested patient engagement tool and method: gamification. The most popular category in the Apple App Store as of the third quarter of 2022 was games, according to Statista.

Why not offer a relaxing experience that feels like playing a game while still focusing on health care? Of course, it’s important to consider factors such as your niche, services, users’ ages and interests to engage patients effectively rather than confuse them. A good instance of successful gamification is Mango Health, which used gamification strategies in its app to encourage medication adherence and reward users for taking their medications on time.

Act smart.

From my experience with healthcare clients, I have some pieces of advice for you to help you implement digital patient engagement tools successfully.

Choose the right proof-of-concept solution. Specify the needs of your patient population. Take into account factors like age, technological literacy and prevailing health issues. Research existing solutions and assess their compatibility with your objectives. Consider starting with an adaptable and widely used tool like a patient portal or a telemedicine platform to get insights into your patient preferences and behavior.

Test the tool. Involve a diverse group of patients to get complete feedback. Regularly update the tool based on user intake to ensure it is user-friendly and relevant. Pay attention to data privacy and security aspects, as trust is a cornerstone of patient engagement.

Foresee challenges. Patients and healthcare staff might be resistant to change. To deal with this, provide them with training and support. Another challenge is ensuring consistent and reliable access to these digital tools for all patients, including those with limited internet access or technological skills. Such solutions could include simplified interfaces, multilingual backing and alternative access methods like telephone-based services.

By keeping these best practices in mind, healthcare providers will be well on their way to improving patient engagement with digital tools.

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