3 simple prerequisites to patient engagement 

Christophe Jauquet, MSci Business Economics

Author and Global keynote speaker on the future of health business

3 simple prerequisites to patient engagement 

30 November 2022 | 10min

Quick Takes

  • Healthcare solutions that meet a medical need don’t create enough patient engagement anymore

  • Healthcare needs to move from a system-based to a client-based approach therefore solutions must adapt to the “client”, not the other way around

  • By meeting the expectations and life aspirations of patients, we can truly engage them in their health

Patients are in need. They need a health solution for the acute or chronic condition they are dealing with. Yet, they often don’t comply or adhere when offered that solution. Lack of patient engagement seems to be the most logical reason. They are not motivated, not literate enough, or simply unwilling. After all, somebody better educated on the subject clearly told them what to do and why to do it. So hey, we did what we could, right?

The healthcare system does everything it can, but patients are often not engaged. I’ve noticed that this train of thought, or even belief, is dominant within the system. 

But I beg to differ. Patients are engaged in their health now more than ever. Whether they are engaged with your solutions is entirely up to you. The good news is that ensuring patient engagement with your healthcare solutions is easily feasible. And what’s more, is that it only requires three components. 

Healthusiasm: Being engaged in your health is now trending

Plenty of studies confirm that patient engagement in their health is at an all-time high. Regardless of whether the topic was about patients managing diseases, patients managing their own health, or people managing a healthy lifestyle, any behavioral segmentation studies from the past ten years will tell you that at least half of each of these populations are proactively involved in their health.1 They are most inclined to behaviors I like to call “Healthusiasm”. Healthusiasm is a macro trend that describes how people today, more than ever, aspire to be(come) as healthy & happy as possible. Consequently, they are increasingly looking to companies and brands to help them with this aspiration.

These behaviors are remarkably present today. Two millennia ago, we were perhaps protecting our health by bringing offers to the relevant gods. But now we live in a health-conscious world and information, insights and tools allow us to impact our health. Healthusiasm is the trend that describes people’s increasing engagement in managing their health as outlined in the book sharing the same title.2 

Blurring boundaries

The consequence of this Healthusiasm trend is ubiquitous. Companies such as Alphabet, Amazon, Walmart, and Microsoft are entering the healthcare field. But lesser-known is that companies with no previous affinity with health and self-care, like Hyundai 3, Best Buy 4, and Tencent 5 are making their mark as well. People will be able to look for health solutions in different industries. The boundaries between the healthcare, wellness, and consumer industries are blurring. 

The healthcare system has long been the center of the health universe, providing health solutions that attract patients. But because of this Healthusiasm trend, we now live in a Copernican Health Revolution that flips this upside down. Patients are now attracting a plethora of different health solutions that will be increasingly provided by players outside the healthcare system. 

Patients are (not?) consumers

This evolution reinvigorates the discussion on whether patients are consumers or not. For many years, this (b)old question has been polarizing people within the healthcare industry. However, in my opinion, this discussion, or even polarization, is useless because neither is right nor wrong. Each party looks at a different element of the equation, while other elements are essential. 

First, let’s have a look at the difference between both:

  1. Patients typically find themselves in an uncomfortable or even anxious situation where they must decide (or comply) between very few options and with limited information about them. The decision’s outcome is often unclear, and there is no “after-sales service” available. One might have to live with the consequences.
  2. Consumers typically don’t find themselves in this type of situation. They have the freedom and excitement to choose from a broad range of options. Plenty of transparent information is available about the options and their outcome. Afterward, they can always return the goods, get their money back or have someone help them solve an issue. 

Situational needs

Consumers and patients don’t find themselves in the same situation. But in essence, we are all consumers and patients. Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation as a consumer. Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation as a patient. In either of those situations, our needs will be entirely different. And while this sounds like the best argument to close the debate and claim that “patients are not consumers”, it is not. Because both patients and consumers have more than merely needs. 

Expecting good experiences

In our lives, we have had experiences that we particularly appreciated or valued: something delivered very quickly; something fixed very efficiently; something made personally for you. The more we experience these, the more we expect the same speed, convenience, or personalization in other parts of our lives. All these enjoyable experiences shape our expectations in life. If I can order something online and have it delivered to me within 24 hours, I don’t expect to have to wait almost seven days for a new credit card. Such an experience is no longer valued positively. 

We may find ourselves in different situations with different needs, but we remain the same person with the same expectations. So, regardless of whether we find ourselves in a situation as a consumer or a patient, we expect a good experience. In that regard, patients can indeed be considered consumers. 

Meeting the needs and expectations to improve patient engagement

The discussion about whether “patients are consumers” is skewed. It’s crucial to unbundle its different aspects: the needs and expectations. Patients are not like consumers because they have different needs in these different situations. But patients are like consumers because they have the same expectations when dealing with solution providers. Understanding that we need to meet the needs and expectations to design more engaging health solutions is essential. And that’s precisely what we’ve been struggling with in healthcare.

System-based approach

The healthcare system has always been rather paternalistic. The patient is in need, and the healthcare system tells them what product to take or service to use.  In that process, we assume that functional elements such as the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of the solutions will suffice to help the patient. They have been carefully studied, tested, and proven by some of the best scientists. 

In my experience, this system-based approach relies too heavily on meeting medical needs only. Because these solutions hardly meet the expectations that patients are accustomed to in their life, they aren’t engaging enough. As a result, these solutions miss their goals. To create better experiences, it is helpful to move away from that system-based approach. Patients, driven by their Healthusiasm, are at the center of their health universe. They are the “clients” of your solution. But the solution must adapt to the “client”, not the other way around. 

Bringing healthcare back to a client-based approach

Personal Trainers realized this a long time ago. People no longer accept to do as they are told so the  “drill sergeant” has made way for the compassionate, empathic coach. This client-based approach starts with the clients themselves: what’s their reality, what are their expectations, and what are they aspiring to in life. Personal Trainers first want to understand the expectations and aspirations of their clients. In every session, they ask how they feel and what they want to achieve that day. Instead of telling their clients to do ten push-ups repeatedly, they help them do as little or as much as they aspire to. It involves the client more and ensures they can persevere longer. 

It’s fair to say we lost this touch more than we like to admit in healthcare. The village physician, who belonged to the community, knew all his patients personally and could take their reality into account. But the scientific progress and the quest for scale pulled healthcare out of the village community and into the walls of ever-expanding hospitals. The client-based touch made way for a system-based approach. Processes, workflows, and governance now define how we manage health. 

Digital transformation in healthcare optimizes system processes, while in the consumer world, digital transformation optimizes people’s experiences. This fundamental difference showcases how healthcare transformation is more system-focused to meet the medical needs of patients, rather than client-focused to meet patient expectations as well.

Christophe Jauquet

In these systems, digital transformation optimizes these processes while the patient is only part of the context. In the consumer world, on the other hand, digital transformation starts from consumer expectations to creating better experiences for them. This fundamental difference showcases how healthcare remains a system-based approach trying to meet the medical needs of patients, while the world shifted towards a client-based approach trying to meet the expectations as well. 

Aspiring to be healthy & happy

A client-based approach, as demonstrated by Personal Trainers, is very valuable when providing health solutions. In fact, this client focus is even more relevant because of a recent psychological and societal evolution: people aspire to be the best version of themselves. This evolution is now very present in our western society because our functional and emotional needs are largely met. According to the American psychologist Abraham Maslow, people then become more aspirational and want to self-actualize or grow as a person.

Image reference7

There are many ways to be your best version, but “being healthy and happy” is often sought after these days. It’s also the most dominant driver of the Healthusiasm trend: we don’t stop caring about our health when we are “no longer sick”. Even when we are “healthy”, we increasingly care about our mental and physical health. The pandemic has only added fuel to this fire. 

Life aspirations

But what is healthy and happy? They could mean different things to different people in different situations. Good health & happiness is also not a fixed state. It requires a continuous interpretation of what it means for oneself and is driven by our hopes or ambitions of achieving something. In other words: our aspirations in life. 

  • These aspirations are universal: A teenager might desire to look good; a working mom might dream of energy; a grandmother perhaps just wants to enjoy life. An epilepsy patient hopes to accept the disease; a patient with Crohn’s disease wants to be in the moment; a marathon runner desires to optimize her performance. 

We all have such aspirations in life, regardless of whether we are dealing with an illness or not. Today, everyone is actively looking for solutions that help them achieve one or more of those essential aspirations in their lives.  

Today’s healthcare solutions need to meet a patient’s needs + expectations + life aspirations 

Solutions need to be valued enough by consumers or patients before they will engage with them. Today, products and services that answer a need don’t create enough value anymore. People value experiences over products or services. They expect enjoyable experiences they are accustomed to in other situations as well. But the highest value is created when solutions support their life aspirations and allow them to grow into their best possible version. These customer transformations are the highest value you can create for your patients. They are also the solution that will improve patient engagement the most because it meets their needs, expectations, and life aspirations. 

  • People need to exercise. It’s a nice service if workout equipment has been made available to you (in a gym, for example). It’s a better experience if working out becomes enjoyable, like during spinning classes. But you feel great if a personal coach can keep you healthy and energetic. This offers more value, and you are more likely to persevere in working out. 
  • People sometimes need to undergo surgery. It’s a welcomed service if this surgery is made available to you (in a hospital, for example). It’s a better experience if a company (e.g. Medbelle 8) guides you along the process with appropriate answers to any question you might have. But it feels great when former surgery patients talk to you about every (human) aspect of the surgery and how they dealt with it (e.g. Patient Partner 9 ). This offers more value, and people are more likely to engage better during the entire procedure.

The simple takeaway for more patient engagement

Patients are in need. Yet, patient engagement can’t be won over by offering a solution that answers a need effectively, safely, and is well-tolerated. Patients, who are more than ever engaged with their health, require more from such solutions. 

If your solution meets their expectations in addition to their needs, chances are high that they will engage with it more. When that solution also helps patients achieve one or more life aspirations, helping them grow into the best possible version of themselves, the engagement with that solution then becomes even higher.

These are three building blocks that deliver customer transformations and guarantee more patient engagement with your health solution.

Christophe Jauquet, MSci Business Economics is an internationally recognized author & keynote speaker on the future of health business. He has been quoted by Deloitte in their 2022 Global Life Sciences Outlook and hosts the globally renown 'Healthusiasm' podcast on the future of health & self-care. Before starting his own business, Christophe held various roles as an intrapreneur at Pfizer Inc., for which he has been recognized with several global innovation awards. Today, he is known as a visionary at the intersection of health, marketing, and technology. Christophe can count pharmaceutical companies such as Roche, Sanofi & GSK and consumer brands like L'Oreal, Nestlé & Pepsi among his clients.

References

  1. Jauquet C. (2020). Healthusiasm. Tielt: Lannoo Campus. p101 
  2. Jauquet C. (2020). Healthusiasm. Tielt: Lannoo Campus.
  3. Kim. (2022). Article available from https://www.kedglobal.com/automobiles/newsView/ked202206230014 [Accessed October 2022]
  4. BestBuy Health. Website avaliable from https://healthcare.bestbuy.com/ [Accessed October 2022]
  5. Jauquet. (2021). Article available from https://www.christophejauquet.com/post/world-s-largest-game-vendor-goes-health [Accessed October 2022]
  6. Maslow. (1943). Psychological Review, 50, 370–396. Paper available from https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1943-03751-001 [Accessed October 2022]
  7. Jauquet C. (2020). Healthusiasm. Tielt: Lannoo Campus. p54
  8. medbelle. Website available from https://www.medbelle.com/  [Accessed October 2022]
  9. PatientPartner. Website available from https://www.patientpartner.com/ [Accessed October 2022]

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