The Power of Healthcare Online Communities

In the new world of community (population) management, your role as a healthcare marketer will change dramatically.

Your hospital will receive a single payment to care for all the patients in your community. Your goal will be to treat every patient at the least expensive point. And that will mean keeping patients out of the hospital rather than driving them in.

HIPAA-compliant, safe, private online health communities will be one of the powerful tools to help you accomplish these objectives.

Today, even before population management becomes the norm, there are endless opportunities to connect patients with patients, caregivers with caregivers, moms with moms, patients with physicians and physicians with each other.

The result, as our partner Dan Dunlop at Jennings so accurately states, is a return on community that can result in better health, lower costs and greater loyalty. (You can download Dan’s e-book on Return on Community.)

Here is why.

Engaged patients cost less

A study in the February 2013 issue of Health Affairs looked at the role that patients play in determining health-related outcomes. Researchers found that patients who were more knowledgeable, skilled and confident about managing their day-to-day health had healthcare costs that were 8% lower in the base year and 21% lower in the next year compared to patients who lacked this type of confidence and skill.

One of the main objectives of community management is to reduce growth in overall patient costs, and this study proves it’s possible.

The Advisory Board has been tracking the success of online communities. They note the value of online patient communities bringing together patients with the same condition to engage with each other through informal blogs, questions, self-reporting of progress toward a health goal and disease-specific resources.

ED and specialist visits drop

One report explains that Group Health Cooperative, a health plan and care delivery system based in Seattle, Washington, offers its members online communities to increase the frequency with which patients with one or more chronic conditions can engage in support groups.

In a diabetes management virtual group, which is based on a Stanford model, patients are connected to each other to foster social support, and a trained facilitator helps participants break down barriers to behavior change and care access.

Patients in a pilot group sought 50% fewer ED visits and 24% fewer specialty visits per year compared to non-participants.

Our partner CareHubs is the only HIPAA-compliant, private-label online community platform available on the market today.

Leading providers are using our online community software

CareHubs is already supporting online patient support communities for organizations like Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Harvard University Medical Center, the University of New Mexico Medical Center and more than a dozen other leading providers.

Because of their expertise, they have been chosen to participate in a number of research projects and clinical trials as well.

These projects are testing the efficacy of online patient engagement with both clinicians and peer support groups to impact outcomes and patient satisfaction in areas as diverse as recovery from cardiac surgery, diabetes management and recognizing and treating depression in family caregivers of cancer patients.

You may be asking, “How do we communicate with our patients in a way that motivates them to take responsibility for their personal health, change some behaviors and do all they can to stay healthy? How do we give them the education and skills they need to change? How do we reduce costs as we help our patients become healthier? How do we build patient loyalty to our network of hospitals and providers?”

Online communities will play a powerful, exciting role in answering these and many other questions.

Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.

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