Experience is not Patient Engagement: Designing to Satisfy Needs, Not Rules

Michael Schrage, well-known author, MIT professor and Harvard Business Review writer, posted a compelling blog at HBR on the difference between user experience and user engagement.

It’s not specifically about healthcare, but it’s relevant as the healthcare sector heads down the road of patient engagement. While there is a higher-level and laudable desire to involve patients more in their own health, the primary impetus is coming from the upcoming engagement requirements contained within Stage 2 of Meaningful Use. This in turn runs the risk of vendors and providers designing the patient experience around satisfying the Stage 2 rules, rather than satisfying the patients.

In his post, Schrage notes that while Android devices are outselling Apple iOS devices five to one,

“Apple’s users are reliably, revealingly and remarkably more engaged in e-commerce, browsing and apps than their Android counterparts.”

This translates into, for instance, four times the volume of online sales even with a smaller user base through the most recent Black Friday retail rush.

His point is that a great user experience (or UX) does not necessarily correlate with user engagement. The UX in Android devices may indeed enable engagement (like a good patient portal) but it is the Apple environment that drives engagement, a very different idea based on the quality and accessibility of valuable content and dialogue. As Schrage writes, “Engagement is smack at the intersection of commanding attention and taking action.

Taking action. Isn’t that what we want our patients to do? The goal of patient engagement is surely to inspire them to take ownership over lifestyle choices, management of chronic conditions and more, and thus stay healthier.

At Hello Health, we’ve had a patient portal from the beginning, and we think it’s designed to be one of the best user experiences there is. But to drive genuinely valuable patient engagement, it’s clear that a practice has to do more than turn on its patient portal. To quote Schrage one last time, “You need to devote as much creativity and ingenuity around designing for engagement as you do for the entire user experience.”

As we continue to build our physician and patient user base at Hello Health, we’ll be paying attention to those providers who have the best, most creative ways to engage their patients. What they communicate. What they enable their patients to do. How they respond to patient interests. And we’ll share these best practices with all of our Hello Health practices, because patient engagement is not some discrete concept isolated from the day-to-day of providing care – it’s the metric underpinning the best, most vibrant and, we believe, the most profitable practices.

photo credit: William Hook via photopin cc

About the Author
Steven Ferguson

Steven Ferguson is the Chief Operating Officer at Hello Health, the complete Cloud-Based EHR, Practice Management System and Patient Portal, that helps practices be more efficient and increase patient engagement.