About This Blog


Sherri Dorfman, CEO, Stepping Stone Partners, Connected & Digital Health Innovation Specialist

My blog is designed to spotlight healthcare organizations with innovative uses of technology & data to drive Care Coordination, Collaboration & Patient Engagement.

These new approaches may influence your product & service roadmap, experiences, partnerships and marketing strategies.


While consulting, I leverage my extensive experience, knowledge and professional network to help companies make the right strategic product and marketing decisions. Services include:

> Strategic Planning Market Review: Competitive Assessments, Partnership Evaluations. Workshop facilitation. Insight drives product, partnership and marketing strategies

> Product Roadmap & Consumer Experience Planning: Conceptualizes, defines and validates solutions/experiences through Marketing Research and journey mapping.  Utilizes new innovative online and mobile research tools to co-create with target buyers and users, gathering input while understanding context to guide the development of personalized solutions & experiences.

> Strategic Product Marketing: Differentiated value proposition story incorporated into marketing & sales assets

Find out how I can help you. Call me at 508-655-6585. Email me at SDorfman@Stepping-Stone.net to set up an exploratory discussion.

Follow me on Twitter @SherriDorfman





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    Entries in consumer generated health and wellness content (22)

    Accelerating Consumer eHealth Engagement Strategies

    mHealth + Telehealth World 2013- World Congress

    July 24- 26, 2013 in Boston

    Innovative healthcare organizations are developing comprehensive engagement strategies to support consumers across the care continuum. They are aggressively testing and learning about how to effectively use mobile technology to guide, motivate and support consumers for better health outcomes. 

    During this session, you will learn about: 

    • Evolving Consumer Engagement Landscape & Trends
    • Engagement in Action and Insights from Innovative Providers & Payers  
    • NeHC Patient Engagement Framework & Examples at Each Step
    • NeHC Consumer eHealth Readiness Tool powered by HealthCAWS- Assessment & Path Forward 


    Sherri Dorfman, MBA, CEO & Consumer eHealth Engagement Specialist, Stepping Stone Partners

    Rose Maljanian, MBA, Chairman & CEO, HealthCAWS 

    Patients Engage with Data & Tools for Better Health Decisions and Health Management @ Partners' Connected Health Symposium

    During the 9th Annual Partners’ Connected Health Symposium, several speakers shared examples about how consumers are taking responsibility for their health by using online and mobile tools. Given the changes in health reform, Providers and Payers welcome patients taking on a more active role in both monitoring and managing their health.

     1. Trackers for Self Management: 

    Susannah Fox presented findings from the latest research by the Pew Internet Project and the California HealthCare Foundation which focused on self-tracking. One interesting insight is the segment of adults who track a “health indicator or symptom”; “62% of adults living with two or more chronic conditions is self- tracking”.

    The research also revealed that only one third of all self trackers shared this information with someone and half of those shared with a clinician and the other half with a member of the family, group or a friend.

    2.  PHR with Mobile Capture of Observations of Daily Living (ODL):

    Patricia Flatley Brennan, Professor, School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin, discussed the insights that can be gained by “listening in the moment”.  Patricia provided an overview of the Project HealthDesign’s five projects for this second round. I was particularly interested as she described how these projects capture the “words of the patient” about their observations of daily living.

    Imagine the tremendous value in sharing the patient’s words not only to help the clinician communicate in a way that resonates with the patient but also to discuss the observation data patterns and their impact on the patient’s live.

    After the conference, I reviewed the projects on the Project HealthDesign website to get a better understanding about the tools that were being used by patients. Several projects entail having the person enter the observations into their mobile phone; symptoms for Asthma, pain and energy levels for Crohn’s disease, caregiver stress for high risk babies and moods for Obesity. For the project focused on elders, I was interested to see sensors being used to collect information to monitor their cognitive decline.  

    3. Online Patient Communities

    Right from the beginning, I knew this panel was designed to be provocative- “Online Patient Communities are an effective way to Deliver Care”. Alex Drane, moderator and CVO at Eliza explained the panel's focus on peer to peer patient communities without clinicians. 

    Shouldn’t this panel really have been titled “Online Patient Communities are an effective way to ‘support’ care”? So much has been written about the strong value that patients receive sharing their experiences.

    Taking patient communities to the next level, it would be interesting to consider how one type of patient community differs from another.  Is there the same intensity of involvement for different types of conditions? Do patients participant in them mostly when they are diagnosed or do they stay on to give back? Are patients using the tracking tools and sharing with others in the community? Are there examples where clinicians are successfully participating in these patient communities?

    Opportunities to Empower Patients with Data & Tools

    Healthcare organizations have any opportunity to provide data and tools as resources to support consumer health management. Here are some areas that I am closely watching.

    Connecting the Data Dots on Health: As a patient gathers information from the various tracking tools, how can this information be combined with other data about him to provide a more comprehensive picture to guide their collaborative care decisions? As Joseph Coughlin, Director MIT Age Lab asked during his Symposium keynote “Data, data everywhere but where are the drops of actionable knowledge?”

    Interjecting Data into the Discussion: When can the patient discuss this information with their care team and get the needed guidance for behavior change? How can this information be incorporated in to a coaching session as the patient discusses the management of her chronic condition? During an intervention, how can this information support the decision discussion?

    Measuring the Impact of the Tools: Each organization will need to think about measuring the elements that make the tool actionable. During her keynote on “e” is for Engagement, Susannah Fox shared a few key measures that they captured for the self trackers including the percent that said their data collection “affected a health decision”,  led them to “ask a doctor new question or seek a second opinion” and “changed their overall approach to health”. 

    As organizations continue to evolve their business models and approaches, these data and tools become more important because they effectively engage patients in their own health. In recent discussions with leading organizations, I have heard about their increasing investments in connecting data and tools to bring more insight to the patient to better manage their health with the support of their care team. What is your organization doing to provide truly engaging online and mobile resources for your patients?

    Independence Blue Cross Leverages Connected Mobile Health to Drive Employee Engagement

    Healthrageous! engagement platform
    Independence Blue Cross is moving quickly with their mobile connected health initiatives. Last fall, Independence partnered with Healthrageous to run a pilot with their own employees before expanding the program to their plan members. Now, Independence is rolling out the mobile connected health program to plan members. 

    During the initial six month pilot, 677 Independence employees were invited to join the pilot and 270 employees or about 40% participated in the pilot. Each employee received an email describing the “Walk the Talk” Wellness Challenge. The email was from the head of the division personally inviting their employee to participate, along with a teaser and information about the program. 

    “By participating in this challenge, you’ll get a sneak preview of Healthrageous, which we may offer to our customers in the future. Healthrageous makes it easy to view your progress and has interactive features to keep you motivated. It will help you set personal wellness goals, monitor your weight and blood pressure, and log your activity so that you’ll know you’re staying on target.”

    Employees signed up for the program to improve their health and received educational messages delivered through the portal, email communications and mobile texts. Employees were offered a pedometer and a blood pressure cuff as tools to manage their health.  Independence also placed kiosks, two in the headquarters and one in two different satellite offices to enable employees to access program information and upload their activity and health information. 

    “At Independence, we don’t just say we care about health and wellness — we walk the talk.  The Healthrageous! platform is a fun way to set personal wellness goals and take simple steps toward better health. It easy to track progress and has fun, interactive features to keep associates motivated", explains Kim Eberach, Vice President of Wellness & Community Health, Independence Blue Cross. 

    Positive Pilot Results With Healthrageous Program 
    Independence has taken an in-depth look at the pilot results gained from both employee participation and engagement. 

    “We have been able to sustain high engagement rates throughout the duration of the program and have seen many users make changes in their daily behaviors.  Blood pressure rates are on a steady decline and activity is still up five months into the program.  We’ve seen the most engagement from individuals who identified themselves as having one or more chronic conditions,”  explains Mike Yetter, Director of eBusiness at Independence.

    At the end of the pilot, Independence conducted research with the employee participants. Here are some of their comments:
    “It is keeping me so motivated to be healthy and aware of my physical activities, weight and blood pressure.”
    “The BEST part of this is the automatic recording of results.  Most people don't have time to add more things to their schedule, so not having to worry about going onto a website and logging in results is amazing.”
    “Seeing the numbers on a daily basis is helpful.” 
    “I truly feel this program has had a positive impact on focusing on my health. The program made me accountable to myself on keeping track of exercise, blood pressure and weight.”
    “Walk the Talk has challenged me to get moving! I love it.  It's like having a real personal trainer, gently pushing you to do the right things; like drink more water, put the salt shaker down, get enough sleep each night, but also to have fun/unwind for at least 30 minutes per night.  These are all things we know to do.” 
    “Once I got on track with the amount of steps I wanted to take every day, my main use for this has been weight management and seeing my weight gain/loss in front of my eyes.  It has been a source of great encouragement to visually see my weight decrease...  I can't fool myself with how much I think I weigh, it is all right there on the website.”

    In addition to their marketing research, Independence is evaluating the program based on metrics and observations about how the features are being used:

    Program Usage: Employees were much more likely at least once to log in (90.0%) or upload steps (88.5%) than upload weight (63.0%) or a blood pressure reading (62.6%) 

    Continuous Effort: On an going basis, the percentage of employees that logged in or logged their steps (including automated upload) was significantly higher than those employees who entered their weight or blood pressure.  

    Within the first two months of the pilot, overall engagement remained above 60%. 
    Increased Activity: Approximately 20% of the program participants improved, increasing their step count by 2k step per day more than their baseline readings. 

    Social Community Usage: Within the Healthrageous platform, participants have the option of specifying who sees their messages to their coworkers. 

    Several employees have decided to nudge their colleagues to get them motivated for change:
    “You are kidding me…. Less than 5k steps today?!”
    “Looks like you are crushing me on steps this week”
    “I don’t see any scale readings.  Too much partying?”
    “Wow!  You have really kept up your activity. Nice job even with all the travel!!”

    If you think back to the start of the year, my colleague Lynne A. Dunbrack from IDC Health Insights outlined the top 10 top predictions in the Healthcare IT Landscape for 2012  which included “Health and Wellness Programs Will Become Social and Mobile to Engage Consumers”.  This direction has certainly contributed to the success of Independence’s Healthrageous program. 

    Factors Driving Employee Engagement
    As I reviewed Independence’s Healthrageous program in detail, I identified five key factors that are driving employee engagement. In order to share these factors within context,  I will describe their value for an employee named Debbie who has Diabetes and is overweight. 

    1. Personalized Approach.  When signing up for the program, Debbie can determine how she would like to participate from specifying her goals such as eating 5 fruits and vegetables each day, joining her coworkers for a walk over lunch 3 days a week to completing two dance classes each week. Based on Debbie’s specific goals, she receives messages through online, email and text which are educational and motivational. She can always go to her personalized page to see all of her information in one place. 

    2. Virtual Coach.  After becoming a member of the program, Debbie receives frequent personalized communications to both remind and reinforce the goals that she selected. Debbie’s last message shared ways to increase her exercise throughout the week to see decreases in her weight. Each communication lists her recent activity and the dates that each activity was done. Debbie sees that she walked 10,000 steps most of the week of October 1st but only 5,345 steps on October 8th and 3,256 steps on October 15th which she realizes was when she was working on her big presentation. 

    3. Social Community Support. When logging in and viewing her personal page on the Healthrageous platform, Debbie sees messages from her online social community which includes a message from a co-worker about an upcoming walking challenge as well as encouraging messages from her husband and daughter. Each participant is in control of her own social community and sends out invitations to friends and family to join.

    4. Automated Activity Tracking.  Many of the wellness programs require the employee to enter the number of steps or time spent on an activity. Independence has placed sensors around the work site to automatically upload the activity information. This means that Debbie can walk by one of these spots and have her latest activity information reflected on her personalized page moments later. After all, Debbie is anxious to know how her team is doing in the latest competition.

    5. Recognition & Rewards. For each Challenge round, participants who have achieved their goals are entered into a raffle drawing.  Prizes have varied from an IPod Shuffle and a Kindle Fire, to gift cards depending on the overall length of the challenge. All participants who achieved their goals also receive a branded athletic workout shirt for their achievement. Debbie proudly wears her shirt as she walks with her team at lunch. 

    Future of Connected Health 
    Connected Health continues to be an emerging and evolving space as organizations tie their mobile initiatives into key strategic programs. 

    These technologies delivered through an online and mobile platform, offer an excellent opportunity to bridge the member’s experience between their insurance health program and their care team (e.g. physicians, nurses, coaches, caregivers, and other advocates). Connected Health will be most meaningful and engaging when data is gathered and shared to empower the consumer in ongoing behavior change towards their health goals. As Debbie discusses her progress in the Independence program with her Diabetes coach,  she not only receives encouragement and motivation but also ideas for continuing to challenge herself to reach her health goals.

    ManyStrong, UnitedHealth’s New Private, Personal Social Community for Actionable Health Support

    ManyStrong Social Community SupportAs soon as he walked through the door at Starbucks, I knew something was terribly wrong. I have known Ben for more than ten years and he has never looked like this. Ben appeared extremely exhausted, had lost his smile and gained a few pounds since our last tea together.

    After he dropped his keys on the small round table and sat down next to me, I asked Ben what was happening. His elderly mother had fallen again in her bathroom. Ben had been shlepping her from the hospital to her apartment, running to the pharmacy to change her medication for the third time this week and food shopping to make sure she had what she needed. As I listened to Ben, I wondered how his brother Rob or other family members were helping out. Just because Ben is the oldest child doesn’t mean that he needs to take on all of the responsibility. Caring for his mother day in and day out was taking a toll on my friend’s health.

    When he stopped talking to take a breath, I started telling Ben about ManyStrong, the new social community initiative from UnitedHealth Group.  ManyStrong is a free new social tool that Ben can use to create an online community to support his mother, Evelyn.  When friends and family ask “how can help”, Ben can invite them to Evelyn’s private community which has tools for them to contribute in some way.

    Over the past few years, I have worked with many different social communities but this one is different: 

    Personalized Social Community On Demand: Ben can create a community for the specific purpose of supporting his mother.  Within the community, Ben can provide updates and request the help that he truly needs to care for his mother. Knowing Ben, it is easier for him to ask for help this way than it is to pick up the phone to call those who had offered help in the past.

    Action Driven Support:  By following the link in Ben’s email invitation, friends and family can provide support in their own way. After all, some are a few miles away and others are across the country.

     - Financial Support: They can donate money which will be placed on a cash card or purchase a gift card for Evelyn.  

    - Motivational Support: Her loved ones can leave care messaging to encourage Evelyn on a daily basis, motivating her to get stronger.  

    - Story Telling For Support: Ben and others in Evelyn’s community can upload  pictures and videos to share. Seeing a photo of Evelyn walking after her fall may bring  relief to her loved ones. Ben can enter comments that “mom has her dancing shoes  ready” which may bring a smile to their faces, easing their anxiety for a moment.

    - Physical Support: When Ben adds new requests for help within the ManyStrong  community, friends and family can take on the responsibility to make a meal, run an errand to the store, spend time with Evelyn or simply check- in on her. The  calendaring feature automatically tracks the need and the person taking on that need for all to see  in the community. 

    ManyStrong Back Story

    “We created ManyStrong simply to help people more easily help each other.  When people we know get sick, or go through a sudden medical emergency or other serious health event, we naturally want to help them.  They are our friends, our families, people we care about.  It’s tough to know how to help. And with everything that person is dealing with, it’s hard to find out what you can do to help without putting additional stress on them and their family.  That’s where ManyStrong comes in”, explains Kunjorn Chambundabongse (KC), VP Innovation and R&D, UnitedHealth Group.

    When serious health issues arise, people turn to online communities for support. Many communities are designed for the individual with the health problem but not necessarily to support the caregiver.  In their February 2011 Peer- to -Peer Healthcare research, Pew found 59% turn to family, friends and fellow patients when needing “emotional support in dealing with a health issue”.

    How is UnitedHealth providing a unique social community solution?  KC clarifies ManyStrong’s differentiation. “Yes there are many communities out there doing pieces of this.  Some sites focus on the medical and clinical related side, allowing people to connect with others going through similar illnesses and share treatment data.  Other sites focus on the non-clinical side, such as fundraising or keeping people informed through journaling/blogging.  And you have many people using the big sites like Facebook, but privacy and security are huge problems with something as serious as health.  ManyStrong brings all these tools into one place in a private and secure way, and allows the caregiver community manager to create a safe spot for people to rally together to support a person or family they care about.”

    The ManyStrong social community solution can be used to support many different situations such as for a child with the long term illness, a senior aging at home or a co-worker battling a disease. Sometimes companies cannot envision the use cases before launching their offering into the marketplace.  KC has thought about the various situations and shares ”we don’t know exactly how people will use Many Strong but we make it our mission to learn from them. When we look at users or potential users of Many Strong, we ask if there is any way that we can make the product better for that family, that community, for the people they’re supporting based on how they’re using it.  One community could have hundreds or even thousands of supporters, or it could have a handful of very close supporters.”  

    What does success look like? KC explains “success to us is about celebrating the actions of people helping one another.  Millions of messages of encouragement, millions in donations to families, and millions of hours of volunteered time… so many beautiful and meaningful actions.  Success to us is seeing all these actions across our country and across the world, one community at a time.”

    During their initial beta phase, UnitedHealth is offering the entire community site for free and is even covering the transaction fee on the donated money.  KC describes their evolving business model for the ManyStrong Community. “Eventually we will need to charge small fees to cover bank transaction processing costs. We are also exploring integration with other service providers such as meal delivery, professional in-home care, and other features to provide even more options for people to give. We may earn referral fees from these merchant partners over time. While the site may earn some revenue, our mission is to give back profits to charitable organizations that will further benefit users of ManyStrong.”

    Note: December 2013, UnitedHealth discontinued their ManyStrong website. 

    Regence Reaches Step 3 on their Consumer Engagement Path

    Regence Program Rewards Transformational Activities 

    Regence started on a new path to consumer engagement back in 2005.

    After seeing a recent presentation outlining their consumer engagement framework, I reached out to Torben Nielsen, VP, eBusiness Strategies and Services at Regence to learn more. Torben shared their past journey as well as their future direction with me.

    Here are the 4 steps along their consumer engagement path. Regence is currently at Step 3 and has a conceptual view of their next step which will continue to evolve as the market landscape fills in around them.

    Consumer Engagement Step 1: Know Me

    Regence’s first step focused on the passive cardholder, giving them value as they logged in. The cardholder saw all of their claims, benefits and provider information. This was back in 2005. Prior to that “it was not a good experience” since the member only saw some of their claims information and the list of providers “did not even indicate whether each one was inside or outside their network”.

    Consumer Engagement Step 2: Engage Me

    Beginning in 2008, Regence decided that they needed to get to know their members in order to effectively engage them.

    Instead of linking the member over to their health or wellness program vendor’s website, Regence decided to keep the member within their portal to capture their online behavior.

    Around that time, Regence launched their Rewards Program which awarded points to members for “tranformational activities”. These activities were rewarded because they “informed, empowered and educated the consumer”, including looking up content around a health issue or participating in a wellness program. Regence decided not to reward members for “transactional activities” such as looking up a claim or searching for a provider.  Regence really needed to keep the member on their portal to track their online behavior in order to reward them.

    Next Regence started their email program, sending out relevant electronic communications to bring members back to the site. Although many health plans have an interest in emailing members, I hear all the time that they do not have their email addresses. Regence collects the member’s email address during their site registration process. “We can’t engage with out email. It would be a missed opportunity to get in front of the member”, Torben emphasizes.

    In addition to generating additional portal traffic, health plan communications can also strengthen their member’s satisfaction scores, which is more important now than ever with the increased market  competition.

    Consumer Engagement Step 3: Connect Me

    Over the past two to three years, Regence has been moving faster down the path with consumers.

    “Connect Me” goes beyond the “member to health plan” relationship. According to Regence, this also includes strengthening the “member to member” bond through social community and the "member to their care team" bond through ACO efforts.

    One important way for Regence to strengthen the “member to member” relationship is by getting consumers to contribute more content online through conversations, ratings/reviews and suggesting local events in their geography.

    Another aspect of “Connect Me” addresses the cross communication channel experience since members are increasingly accessing and engaging through their mobile devices. “We’re connecting the data that we’re sitting on to provide a more personalized experience for our members”, explains Torben.

    Consumers are engaging with Regence!

    • 67,000+ patient reviews have been submitted by members, of which 90% are favorable (i.e. the member  would recommend the physician/facility).
    • 63,000+ posts in the Community section of myRegence.com, written by more than 6,000 unique content creators.
    • 346,000+ have opted- in for member electronic communications (e.g. updates and alerts, account information, etc)
    • 260,000+ subscribers signed up to receive the bi-weekly myRegence.com email newsletter

    Consumer Engagement Step 4: Partner with Me

    As they look down their Consumer Engagement path,  Regence has determined where they want to be directionally. Regence wants to be relevant to the consumer’s every day life. Something consumers need to check as part of their daily routine. Their starting place to look for information to meet all of their health needs.

    Although it is challenging to know exactly where the market is going, Regence will remain in touch with their users to help guide the way.

    In fact, Regence has over 400 users that help advise them by providing ongoing feedback to potential directions. [Note: Innovative companies have consumer advisory boards as a best practice. Increasingly, these consumer advisory boards are managed in a private online area and the insight captured is used to guide product and marketing decisions.]

    Regence is co-creating with this growing group of consumers to define and refine online capabilities. When Regence asked for feedback about “patient reviews”, members felt they needed to see more than the reviewer’s screen name. Users wanted “the ability to connect with their peers in order to get advice when selecting a provider”.  In the latest patient review experience, the screen name is linked to the reviewer’s Community profile page, where to learn more about who they are, where they’re from, what they do for a living and members have an the opportunity to make a friend request.

    Regence’s Results Realized

    Due in large part to Regence’s consumer engagement strategies, myRegence.com experienced the following results in 2011 over 2010:

    • 30% increase in the cumulative number of content creators (i.e. those who have left a patient review, posted in Community or both).
    • 88%  jump in the number of $25 gift card redemptions through the Rewards program 
    • 76% increase in the Consumer Engagement Index (CEI) which measures the user adoption of transformational features
    • 26% open rate for targeted email campaigns, nearly 2x the industry benchmark of 14%

    Regence has also noticed that their segmentation efforts for email have been effective in engaging consumers. For example, by sending a Patient Review email to previous reviewers, Regence realized a 38% open rate.

    As Regence moves onto step 4 in Consumer Engagement, they are conceptualizing new ways to reach out to their members with relevant information from their plan, community and care team. And they will be innovating with and listening to their users throughout their journey.