The healthcare system has been traditionally focused on disease management and helping sick people.It hasn’t been so good at helping people not get sick in the first place. While we’ve started to pinpoint patients who are at risk for chronic illness, getting those patients to take action to not get sick has been a different story.
There are many pieces that go into behavior change, but one that often gets ignored is the power of human connection, and in this digital age specifically, technology-enabled human connection.
Why technology-enabled human connection?
Human connection is a powerful thing. More people than ever now live in single-person households, leaving them at risk for isolation which has been linked to depression, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, lung disease, obesity, and metabolic disorders.
When humans don’t interact with other humans, it appears they tend to get sicker and sicker. Yet when we do connect with each other, some researchers say we increase our length of life, improve our immune system, and improve quality of life.
Thanks to technology, we can connect with other humans anytime, anywhere, and many of the benefits are still the same as physical connection.
Patients get ongoing support
Making major life changes takes an emotional and physical toll even when those changes are positive. Healthcare currently can't scale enough to provide patients a 24/7 support system.
When stressful health issues and isolation coincide, patients easily become depressed, stressed and default to their former lifestyle. But when patients have a system of interactive support, they are more likely to succeed.
Consider someone who is on the verge of developing diabetes, often an overwhelming and frightening diagnosis.
They need to make lifestyle changes immediately. Even though they have great clinicians, they don’t have access to daily input from them. They have to make these daily lifestyle choices by themselves, often unsupported, and that’s where it falls apart.
Most patients diagnosed with chronic disease have good intentions to change, but without others who can encourage and motivate them, they struggle to get there.
This is why in our health community participants tell us time and time again that their peers in the community keep them connected, hold them accountable, and encourage them when challenges seem insurmountable.
Even more than they 24/7 access to health coaches, their peer support is what enables them to reach their health goals.
Technology-enabled human connection provides long term success because it is so accessible. Since time and place are not an issue, patients can rely on the support and community wherever they are, whenever they want.
If they hit roadblocks or want to give up, they can quickly and seamlessly connect with their online community for support, ask questions, and offer help to others.
How to enable human connection for better health outcomes
Healthcare would do well to give patients a place to connect with peers for support and motivation. Here’s how:
Build your health community
Integrated health systems can do this by giving patients access to a technology-enabled health community where they can learn from others who have walked the same journey, relate with those in the same part of the journey, and encourage those coming behind.
With the exception of some outliers, most people do want to help others. Your health community acts as a brainstorming platform for patients to give each other ideas and offer solutions they’ve tried to enable others to reach their goals.
Provide non-clinical health coaches
In addition to all the community benefits, give patients 24/7 access to message a non-clinical health coach for support. Not only will this take burden off of clinicians, but it also gives patients access to anytime, anywhere care, a key component of consumer experience.
Health coaches can connect with patients one-on-one as well as interact with all community participants to help guide the conversation. As they get to know each person in the community, they build personalized plans to help patients reach their health goals. They help clinicians catch potential health problems before they become dangerous and costly, and act as a frontline for health related questions before a patient calls the doctor or visits the ER.
Are you ready to be an enabler?
Of human connection, that is. Discover how with our guide “How To Engage Consumers In Their Own Health."