In the final installment of our series on using digital technology for patient engagement, we discuss how email can promote health literacy and help patients manage chronic conditions.
Patient Education and Health Literacy
Chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease require a high degree of health literacy to manage effectively at home. Health literacy is the ability to understand, engage, and act upon health information. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that heart failure patients with lower levels of health literacy saw higher hospital admission and mortality rates. Therefore, boosting levels of health literacy for chronic disease patients is essential to improving health outcomes.
Of course, patient education and health literacy start with the in-person interactions a patient has with their health care provider. However, once a patient leaves the office, education should not stop. Using digital channels to reinforce medical messaging and can help keep patients up to date with developments in their treatment plans and prognosis.
Email is an excellent way to engage patients. It is minimally intrusive and asynchronous, meaning patients can read the material whenever it is convenient for them. Better yet, email messages can be personalized to meet the needs of individual patients with minimal time and effort.
Email Campaign Examples to Promote Health Literacy
To illustrate how email can improve health literacy, let’s take an example. A patient recently diagnosed with diabetes has a lot to learn about managing their health. Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires substantial lifestyle changes. Non-adherence to treatment can have serious consequences, including hospitalization and death. A patient is likely to meet with a health care provider on a regular basis to discuss their treatment plan, but the amount of information can be overwhelming. Sending follow up emails that reiterate important information can help patients understand and absorb the messaging received from their doctor.
Some potential campaign ideas include:
- how to use insulin pumps
- managing blood sugar
- what to do if blood sugar is too low or too high
- learning about A1C levels
- information on preventing serious complications
- information on nutrition and meal planning
- exercise ideas
- sharing information about diabetes support groups and events
Being diagnosed with a chronic health condition can have serious mental health impacts. Helping patients feel supported with resources and access to medical information throughout the lifestyle changes is very important.
Personalizing Email Campaigns
Here comes our regular reminder: sending emails that contain ePHI like those mentioned above, need to comply with HIPAA. Once HIPAA requirements are met, organizations can personalize emails with patient data. In addition to sending medical information, campaigns can be personalized further using demographic data.
Patients that suffer from chronic conditions and are members of ethnic minority groups often experience worse health outcomes than their white counterparts. To address health equity issues, use segmentation to target select groups with messaging specific to their needs. This could include creating campaigns in multiple languages, addressing diet and exercise tips in a culturally sensitive way, or providing more resources to help these groups afford testing and insulin.
The power of email personalization allows health care providers to provide accurate and timely information to their patients.
Learning to live with a chronic health condition is not an easy task. To help prevent hospital visits and deteriorating health, promoting health literacy is essential. Supplementing doctor visits with personalized email campaigns can help answer patient questions and help them adjust to living with a chronic illness. Contact LuxSci today if you would like to learn more about HIPAA-compliant email marketing campaigns.