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By Sarah C. Threnhauser, MPA

Consumer engagement is top of mind for many reasons. Engaged consumers are consumers who have a better “experience.” Engaged consumers are activated consumers who take part in managing their health. Engaged consumers give provider organizations a significant edge over their competitors (see Successful Self-Direction Is Successful Consumer Engagement and Consumer Engagement = Performance).

Blake A. Martin

For many provider organization management teams, it’s not clear how to best go about achieving better consumer engagement. The executive participants at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute got some words of wisdom about consumer engagement in the session Keeping Consumers In The Equation: Best Practices In Consumer Experience and Engagement, featuring Blake A. Martin, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at Monarch; Chief Operations Officer at Monarch; and Philip O. Toal, Ed.D., Senior Vice President, Residential Services at Aspire Health Partners.

What does consumer engagement look like in practice? The panel shared five keys that will help provider organizations provide better consumer service, faster services, and better outcomes.

Chris Thompson

Invest in an up-to-date electronic health record—No strategic plan can be successful without the resources and infrastructure to support it. To properly manage consumer engagement and experience, you can’t just focus on the consumer’s experience when they are in the same room as a clinical provider. True engagement means tracking consumer data so that you can determine what they want or need and are prepared to provide that in real time. Mr. Martin explained that you can’t keep telling your payers and consumers that they have to wait for the data and the information they need to make decisions about care.

Expand and improve access—Contractual agreements drive consumers to your door, but if they can’t get in the door, or don’t like their experience when they do, they will be neither engaged nor likely to come back. Mr. Thompson explained that old-fashioned appearance and amenities can really help the consumer experience, noting:

We gave our facilities a face lift, including free Wi-Fi and phone charging. We made sure our front desk staff are welcoming and that our clinical staff understood customer service. We also focused on waiting room aesthetics and process components. We brought in a centralized call center with nine operators trained on mental health first aid and customer service. All calls go to corporate office and our team will transfer the consumer to where they need to go.

Philip O. Toal

Provide stages of change education—Mr. Toal explained these as “motivational enhancement services” that are designed to convince staff that they want to change and take a greater role in providing a consumer-centered approach. Organizations need to ask themselves if they have a consumer-centered approach that isn’t being properly demonstrated. It’s not just about looks, it’s about core values.

Comprehensive assessment that includes social determinants of health—It’s hard to know how best to engage with any given consumer if you don’t really know a lot about them. From a consumer services standpoint, it’s worth spending time on assessments. This also means investing in things like telehealth that can help you ask consumers about their goals, their environments, as well as get their feedback on your services.

Care coordination—Care coordination and case management are key and essential to achieving the kinds of consistency across systems that lead to greater consumer experiences in the short-term, and better consumer engagement in the long-term. Mr. Toal noted that organizations need to be available 24/7, 365 days a year because that brings consumer health satisfaction.

For even more on improving consumer engagement, join me on June 4 at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute for the session “Self-Determination In The I/DD Market: Keys To Incorporating Consumer-Directed Care Into Your Services,” featuring Ray Wolfe, J.D., Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS; Dan Ohler, Vice President, State Government Programs, Optum Behavioral Health; and Mollie Murphy, President, Applied Self-Direction.

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