Patient Engagement Platforms Are 2017’s Sexiest Tech

Over the last few months, I’ve become convinced that the predictable star of 2017 — population health management — isn’t going to be as hot as people think.

Instead, I’d argue that the trend to watch is the emergence of new technologies that guide, reach out to and engage with patients at key moments in their care process. We’re at the start of a period of spectacular growth for patient engagement platforms, with one analyst firm predicting that the global market for these solutions will hit $34.94 billion by 2023.

We all seem to agree already that we need to foster patient engagement if we want to meet population health goals. But until recently, most of the approaches I’ve seen put in place are manual, laborious and resource-intensive. Yes, the patient portal is an exception to that rule – and seems to help patients and clinicians connect – but there’s only so much you can do with a portal interface. We need more powerful, flexible solutions if we hope to make a dent in the patient engagement problem.

In the coming year, I think we’ll see a growing number of providers adopt technology that helps them interact and engage with patients more effectively. I’m talking about initiatives like the rollout of technology by vendor HealthGrid at ColumbiaDoctors, a large multispecialty group affiliated with Columbia University Medical Center, which was announced last month.

While I haven’t used the technology first hand, it seems to offer the right functions, all available via mobile phone. These include pre- and post-visit communications, access to care information and a clinically-based rules engine which drives outreach regarding appointments, educations, medications and screening. That being said, HealthGrid definitely has some powerful competitors coming at the same problem, including the Health Cloud.

Truth be told, it was probably inevitable that vendors would turn up to automate key patient outreach efforts. After all, unless providers boost their ability to target patients’ individual needs – ideally, without hiring lots of costly human care managers – they aren’t likely to do well under value-based payment schemes. One-off experiments with mobile apps or one-by-one interventions by nurse care coordinators simply don’t scale.

Of course, these technologies are probably pretty expensive right now – as new tech in an emerging market usually is — which will probably slow adoption somewhat. I admit that when I did a Google search on “patient engagement solutions,” I ran into a vendor touting a $399 a month option for doctors, which isn’t too bad if it can actually deliver. But enterprise solutions are likely to be a big investment, and also, call for a good deal of integration work. After all, if nothing else, health systems will want to connect patient engagement software to their back-office systems and EMR, at minimum, which is no joke.

Still, to my mind there’s little question that patient engagement technologies are going to be the sexiest health IT niche to watch in 2017, one which will generate major buzz in healthcare boardrooms across the country. Whether you invest or not, definitely watch this space.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • In 2017 I think we may see the emergence of patient empowerment platforms which empower the patient to collect data regarding their health, wellness, and comfort status in a way that it can be shared with a doctor so that the doctor begins to get a daily view of a patient’s health and wellness and not just an incidental view. The empowerment of patients that permits even small advances in health behavior change will reduce the constant dependency on medical care for maintaining health and wellness.

  • Great post! It’s clear that the patient engagement requirements of MACRA support this post. The challenge is to make patient engagement easy, valuable and appealing to encourage patient uptake; a new Black Book study shows patients have little interest in patient portals today. Using a tightly integrated patient engagement platform can help improve patient health and success.

  • If you are a self insured employer, the real key to promoting engagement, helping people get well/stay well and saving healthcare costs, is having a dedicated trusted advisor that understands the patient’s and their family’s needs. That one dedicated person that is a phone call away, that will always be there for them to assist with navigating today’s complex healthcare system.

    Now combine that personal, human element with leading edge technology, and you have the perfect recepie for successful engagement and happier/healthier consumers. Give people options for how to engage as different generations and populations each have their own preferences.

    Employers spend a ton of money each year on benefits and various point solutions, all aimed at keeping their employees happy and healthy. The problem is that only about 13% of employees even know what is available and engage in what is offered. They are forced to make decisions regarding their healthcare, on their own, which leads to wasteful spending of their own and their employers money.

    Replace those multiple 800 numbers on the back of the insurance card with ONE dedicated number, which connects directly to a dedicated trusted advisor, and you will have happier and healthier group of employees and family members. We have been doing it at Accolade for the past decade and have continuously proven that our methodology is effective in reducing costs and getting people engaged.

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