I had a real “aha” moment last week.
While I realize this may not be a news flash to the Health 2.0 crowd, it was a wake-up call for me.
During a launch event for a new mobile start-up company, a startling headline suddenly became crystal-clear to me:
Mobile messaging will rapidly transform our ability to drive engagement.
For all the struggles that health and well-being improvement sponsors have had with engagement, the answer has been right there, in the palm of our hand.
During the launch event, the new company’s CEO highlighted an array of facts and trends that sets the stage for a potential explosion of mobile-based, health-related interactions.
Like, how about the fact that in the past two years, there have been more smart phones produced than the total number of television sets manufactured – ever…! And that 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery…?
From these data and the emerging capabilities of many innovative solutions, it’s clear that healthcare engagement and behavior change are in for some real action and real results.
Given that 2/3 of Americans have a smart phone today, we’re past the tipping point for access. We must now overcome rational and emotional barriers to communicating via mobile and get to it.
Whether it is appointment reminders, video demonstrations, social nudging, coaching interactions or any of a wide number of potential applications, mobile is set to become the communications centerpiece of tomorrow.
During the launch meeting, I also gave a talk on Consumer Engagement in the Digital Age. My emphasis was on consumer insights, behavioral economics, the decision pathway, and other structural components of engagement strategy.
I noted that it is very likely that “engagement” is the most overused term in healthcare over the past couple years, at least for those inside the industry.
But, there is a good reason for all the interest, as the megatrend toward accountability relates as much to consumer responsibility as it does to provider actions. The problem, though, is that engagement is often misused, misunderstood, or misguided.
It is too often used as a “generic” substitute for any number of actions including enrollment, participation, interventions, portal visits, activation, or several other similar activities.
We view the idea of engagement as being a “means to an end” – of helping to guide individuals from Point A to Point B, in a segment of their journey toward better health.
I also talked about how consumers make choices, highlighting that we tend to make either rational decisions, impulse decisions, or irrational decisions.
It’s the last of these that is most vexing for health behavior change and has been “explained” to us by behavioral economists like Daniel Kahneman. His book, Thinking Fast and Slow is an outstanding guide for folks designing strategies to address consumer behavior.
I also presented the Sustainable Engagement Framework that I had developed while at Healthways a few years ago. It is loosely based on the advertising development model and fits well with environments that are relatively static.
But, in presenting it, it became clear to me that there needs to be a new model for consumer engagement in the digital age.
It still needs to be steeped in strategy, but the activation components are far more dynamic, individualized and interactive. This is the beauty of digital, and when it is literally in the palm of your hand and poised for immediate response, possibilities grow exponentially.
Mobile messaging can also serve to better “dimensionalize” the amorphous concept of engagement. We see the potential for a “laddering” effect that moves from our ability to inform and educate on a base level, to being able to engage and empower on the next tier and then moving forward to allow for experience, achievement and advocacy – all of which should produce sustainable behavior change.
This is a fast-moving space with real potential for smart solutions to drive action. With the overlay of this new powerful channel of mobile, these elements remain essential but timelines shrink, interactivity rises, positive actions occur and behaviors shift.
We believe that consumers are open and ready to participate if sponsors are willing to be more bold in shedding their legacy mindsets about how to interface with their constituents.
As my colleagues in London are fond of saying, “Watch this space…”
It will change the way we think about engagement.