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The Myth of Engagement

Engagement is increasingly framed as a digital marketing priority.  This reflects a growing recognition that there is a shift in the dynamic between business and consumers online, and the need for a strategic approach to this revolution.  Too often, however, the strategy employed takes an incomplete approach which -- at best -- wastes the tremendous potential available through true engagement. At worst, it breeds cynicism.

Just showing up is not engaging.

Simply placing good content, however valuable and informative, in front of a willing consumer, does not achieve the relationship that engagement implies.

Particularly in health care organizations, where real engagement with patients has such profound value, the mythical type of "engagement" can be a serious missed opportunity.

Real engagement implies a transparent dialog, a conversation, with the capacity for both parties to discuss relevant issues.  In health care, this would imply that policies and procedures that are applicable to health care are open for discussion by both patients and institutions.

Engagement does not occur without the organization harnessing the human bandwidth required to have a meaningful conversation.   Unless a health care organization passes two critical hurdles, frank conversations of use to both parties will simply not take place. To achieve real engagement, an organization must:

  1. provide training so that employees are not so risk-focused that they fear participating, and
  2. enable employees to engage by allowing access to social media channels via their work computers.

DIAMOND (Depression Improvement Across Minnesota, Offering a New Direction) depression is a tool that has been shown to improve depression remission rates.  In DIAMOND depression, a depressed patient is assigned a care manager, not a care provider, who calls on schedule to monitor medication and therapy compliance and side effects.  This is someone who has no formal medical training.

When the Mayo Clinic Family Medicine Northwest practice initially rolled out DIAMOND depression, the initial enrollment rate was approximately 33 percent.   They went back to their patient-family advisory council (PFAC) and asked, “What can we do to improve enrollment and engagement?”

The PFAC suggested three simple interventions.  First, the program was to be introduced to the patient as the standard of care.  Second, the patient’s care provider was to introduce the care manager directly to the patient.  Third, the patient was provided with clear education as to the care manager’s role in the care team.  These were not massive policy procedure changes; rather, these reflected frankly engaging the members of the PFAC to insure that a particular health care policy was built to best meet the needs of the patients.  By doing so, they were able to increase enrollment to 97 percent, and Family Medicine Northwest became one of the leading clinics in Minnesota in reducing depression remission rates.

Don’t fall prey to the myth of engagement.  Showing up is important, but the real value to both patients and health care is in the conversation.

Editor's Note: Farris Timimi, M.D., is the medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. Engage with him on Twitter.