A Modern Approach to Patient Activation and Engagement


Michael Linnert, Founder and CEO, Actium Health

Over the past year, we talked to commercial team leaders at mid-size health systems in order to better understand healthcare’s most pressing challenges, as well as the technology solutions to help address those challenges. At the top of the list was patient activation. More than a decade of investment in EHR and other patient data sources were cited as major tools that innovative health systems can use to level-up outreach and activation strategies—but the race is on to make better use of them to inspire customer actions. 

The long-term decline of the traditional health system-patient relationship only accelerated during the pandemic. Fewer in-person visits, coupled with limited capabilities to stay connected with patients through proactive, personally-relevant communications, led many to consider alternative healthcare pathways. 

The growth of retail clinics and expanding capabilities of telehealth providers are providing convenient and compelling alternatives to primary care providers, with the emergence of specialty D2C healthcare brands using the power of individually-targeted content, superior customer experience, and transparent pricing models to engage and build lasting relationships with high-lifetime-value potential. 

Against this backdrop, the health system leaders we spoke with highlighted the need to deliver relevance and value in every patient touch point, not simply as a means of cementing trust and loyalty, but to better uncover and serve the evolving needs of individual consumers before they think to seek care elsewhere. 

For data-rich health systems, organization alone can be a major benefit, but with such a high volume of complex customer data – including centralized data systems (e.g., EHRs, data lakes, population health systems) to contend with, traditional CRM systems may do little to alleviate the phenomenon of ‘data overload’ or ‘data paralysis’ frequently cited among marketing teams and others tasked with owning outreach to individual patients. 

Health systems have an immediate need to make sense of all the data and noise to deliver a clear, measurable, action plan for each patient.

Today’s Patient Expects More from Their Healthcare Provider

23% of patients have changed their opinion of their doctors

Back in May, we conducted research that quantified just how much patients’ expectations about their healthcare experiences – particularly related to how and when providers communicate with them – have shifted as a result of COVID. For example, 50% have higher expectations for their doctors now, and 23% say their opinion of their doctor has changed. The top reason they cite for having lost confidence in their doctor [during the pandemic]: infrequent communication about COVID-19.   

These findings shine a light on the need to find ways to improve communication with patients in ways – and with information – that are action-driven and patient-centric.

A CRM Intelligence Mindset

CRM systems today deliver a 360-degree patient view with sophisticated analytics and insights. What they don’t do is identify the single, next best action to take and automate the outreach piece. A CRM tool is only a third of your CRM strategy. What are the right interactions to facilitate? How can we go from data insights to influence and actions?

CRM Intelligence enables healthcare leaders to drive strategy through the identification of the next best action, intelligent automation of the outreach, and measurement of your outreach efforts and programs. Who am I reaching out to? What do I want them to do? Did they book that appointment? After all, care can't start until the patient is in front of the physician.

In healthcare, we can no longer rest on what we have traditionally done to meet the challenges – and changing consumer/patient expectations – of today and tomorrow. The COVID pandemic changed everything, and revealed a gap in how healthcare systems and organizations activate and engage patients. 

To do that – truly activate and engage – systems need to think differently about the data they have, and how they leverage it to effectively enable and help patients make the right decisions about their health.

A Path to CRM Intelligence: Marketing Needs to Have a Seat at the Table

We recently sat down with our customer, Ryan Younger, VP of marketing at Virtua Health to discuss the shifting role marketing will play as health systems look to create better patient activation and engagement in 2022 and beyond. Here’s what Ryan had to say:

“Increasingly, marketing will have a seat at the table. With the right strategy and tools, marketing can listen to – and be the voice of – the consumer. By seamlessly collaborating with clinical and operation teams, combined with marketing’s unique perspective of the audience, health systems will be able to address patients’ ever dynamic expectations and needs when it comes to their health and healthcare. Without one piece of that puzzle, organizations risk falling short of those expectations and watching consumers go elsewhere for their needs.”

For health systems, marketing’s role will continue to grow in importance. While often seen as the “branding” arm of an organization, marketing can drive patient activation and engagement that has a direct impact on their health. For example, last Fall, Virtua Health ran an AI-driven campaign reminding high-risk patients of necessary screenings they may have missed. The campaign influenced 11,000 mammogram appointments, resulting in hundreds of breast cancer diagnoses that may have otherwise gone undetected. 

With a CRM Intelligence mindset – and the right team behind it – health system marketers can have an incredible impact on patients and the community. As we look ahead, the healthcare industry needs to move towards a new relationship with data that is both actionable for the patient and valuable for the system.

Watch Chris Hemphill’s discussion with Ryan Younger about how Virtua Health has transformed their marketing strategy to be metrics-driven, agile, and better aligned with each consumer. 

ai and patient engagement video