HealthOctober 24, 2017

Designed for optimal engagement: Emmi’s technology platform

Arming people with understandable, actionable health information means more than just communicating clearly. The technology underneath that communication can make or break its ability to have an impact.

Emmi has spent the past several years carefully designing a technology platform with the express purpose of making healthcare easier for patients, families, and clinicians. To find out more about it, we interviewed Greg Blew, VP of Product Design at Clinical Effectiveness (within Wolters Kluwer Health), who has been at the project’s helm.

First off – what does Emmi’s new platform do?

The platform allows us to give people more personalized, dynamic communication over time. Instead of sending everyone down a uniform, linear path, the platform learns about each individual as it goes along, molding itself to their preferences and needs. So you could have a group of a hundred people who all start out at the same point, but under the surface, there’s a rules engine whirring away, making decisions about what information to present next, which question to ask next, when to contact the individual next. By the end of their journey, they’ve all had a distinct experience.

A lot of different things could trigger that personalization. It might be something like learning a person’s communication preferences – for instance, maybe they speak Spanish, or like to be contacted in the mornings. Or it might be learning about them clinically and emotionally – perhaps that they have a comorbidity like depression that affects the way they care for diabetes.

Why invest so much in technology like that?

One-size-fits-all communication isn’t good enough for healthcare. Not only are there unique clinical factors affecting each person’s health, there are also unique life factors that can hugely impact care, like socioeconomic status or psychosocial considerations. Giving people specific, relevant information gives people the best chance at optimal health, and it’s important for us to support that. You can imagine the difference between generic information on high cholesterol versus a tailored intervention that understands things like your current lipid levels, target lipid levels, food access, medication history, and confidence level in your ability to make lifestyle changes. That second conversation is not only more engaging to interact with, it sets people up for more lasting behavior change.

Clinicians want to have these kind of individualized conversations with their patients, but of course they have limits to their resources. When we can have more intelligent, useful interactions with patients via technology, we can extend the reach of those clinicians, and let them spend their time on those who need more help.

How will patients feel having these kinds of conversations with a computer, not a human? Will they think it’s creepy you know so much about them?

People are definitely sensitive to the creepy factor – it can be really off-putting when technology, or even people, know more than it seems like they should. To hit the right balance, we focus on two main things. First, we make sure people understand the messaging is coming from their healthcare provider. That connection to the care team is really important because it contextualizes any personal information we have about their patients. It gives us more room to tailor the content and not seem inappropriately knowledgeable.

Next, we pay a lot of attention to the process of building trust over time, and ensuring any personalization is reflective of the amount of trust that’s been established. For instance, content that starts off expressing its knowledge of seven hundred things about you is going to seem very unsettling. But after we’ve set the stage, helped people understand what we’re all about, and actually gathered information from patients themselves, the personalization is far more natural

Ultimately, people are looking for some measure of personalization. Nobody likes feeling like someone forgets everything they know about you each time you interact. That erodes trust on top of frustrating people and wasting time. So that balance is important to get right. It’s an art form we’re working to perfect.

Looking to the future, what are your plans for growing Emmi’s platform?

Moving forward, we want to expand our ability to adapt to patient needs in meaningful ways. We need to understand where personalization has the highest impact, and then accommodate that. An aspect of this is also expanding the mediums in which we communicate. And as we do all this, we’ll be studying absolutely everything, paying close attention to what works and what doesn’t, finding those high-impact moments to focus our energy on.

Beyond that, we want to take what we’re doing with Emmi and link it up with other efforts going on at Clinical Effectiveness. The whole mission of the wider organization is to improve clinical outcomes through better decision-making – whether it’s at the clinician level or the patient level. So we’re exploring how we can come together to elevate all points of care, and harmonize the entire journey. At the end of the day, we’re all marching toward what’s going to improve health outcomes.


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