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 patient education (13)

    Shared Decision Making Tools Engage Consumers for Better Outcomes and a Better Experience

    CareFirst BCBS Medical Home SDM Tool

    Over two years ago, I led a panel on patient decision support tools for a large interested crowd in Boston, despite the very snowy day.

    Since then, I have noticed a few key changes. Physicians are now prescribing information to patients, using the EMR to send emails with links to health resources. And innovative health plans are playing a role in bringing shared decision making tools to engage and empower their members. Health Plans have a big cost saving incentive when these tools educate their members about less invasive and less expensive options.

    3 Key Engagement Drivers With Shared Decision Making Tools

    While evaluating technologies for my panel on “Evolving Web & Mobile Tools to Engage Consumers in the Shared Decision Process”, I identified how three key drivers of consumer engagement are being utilized:

    1. Education

    These tools show the consumer what the treatment entails and share patient stories which tell them what to expect.  This education reduces anxiety by putting the consumer in control to understand their health issues and presenting options to address them.

    2. Evaluation

    Shared Decision Making tools are ideally designed for “preference sensitive conditions” where there are multiple clinical options (For information about target conditions, see the recent report on the Dartmouth Atlas Project which was developed with The Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making). The most effective tools offer alternatives, capture preferences and guide the consumer through the process while documenting their decisions. This helps set expectations for their experience and supports the discussion with their doctor or care coach. 

    3. Collaboration

    As the patient and clinician/coach review the SDM summary document together, they can discuss questions, concerns and comments to make the best decision.

    Health Plans Leverage Shared Decision Tools

    During the panel, health plans described using Shared Decision Making tools to engage members in two key areas:

    • Medical Home

    Panelist Zev Lavon, PHD, Director Solution Architecture, CareFirst BCBS emphasized “the story of the patient is not their last doc visit or lab test”.  CareFirst launched their Primary Care Medical Home initiative across a panel of physicians deploying communication tools to push information to patients to support the management of their chronic conditions.

    •   Wellness Coaching

    According to Mark L. Robitaille, MBA, Head of Care Management Support & Engagement, Aetna puts these tools into the hands of their health coaches to send emails with resources links to members or use the tools to look up information for the members without internet access.

    Independent Health panelist, James J. Mis, MBA, Communications Manager, Health Care Services, described their interactive voice response campaign to inform members about viewing a shared decision making video (from Emmi Solutions) selected for their specific health interest.

    Emerging Mobile SDM Tools 

    With a high penetration of smart phones and strong usage across minorities, health care organizations are realizing the tremendous opportunity to deploy mobile applications to engage consumers. To date, most health mobile health applications have been focused on wellness with educational information and tracking.

    Panelist Changrong Ji, Senior Solutions Architect, CareFirst BCBS described the opportunity for mobile shared decision making tools. In the future, she envisions that sensors will capture the context of the consumer’s daily life, database analytics will identify patterns and machine learning will be used to help identify relevant mobile messages to send back to the consumer.

    Healthwise’s View on Patient Response

    During the Shared Decision Making Summit, the chairperson, Don Kemper, Healthwise’s CEO discussed the opportunity for shared decision making tools to give a “voice to the patient”.  After the physician prescribes health information, the tool gathers patient’s preferences to document them in the medical record. I strongly agree with Don as he explains “there is no better way to engage the patient than to assure them that their voice will be heard in treatment and care plan decisions”.

    Shared Decision Making Tools for Your Consumers

    What are you doing to bring Shared Decision Making Tools to your consumers to motivate engagement in their health and wellness?  I can help guide you through the process of identifing, evaluating and piloting these technologies to deliver better outcomes and a better experience for your consumers. 

    Seven Mobile Health Engagers

    We see it every day and everywhere. Consumers are engaged with their mobile phones at restaurants, at the gym, by the pool, in parked cars and in the hallway outside of the doctor’s office. They have a strong need to stay connected and use every free moment to review and respond to messages as well as access online information through their mobile phones.

    Over the past 6 months, I have heard health care providers, health plans, health care technology companies and employers express strong interest in reaching, engaging and influencing consumers through mobile health applications. Although mobile committees have been formed, most are in the beginning stages of identifying and prioritizing the applications that they will develop and deliver to consumers.

    Seven Mobile Health Engagers:

    Here are seven key capabilities that companies will want to build into their mobile health applications:

    1. Guiding Sending personalized alerts and reminders for motivating specific actions such as taking medications, testing blood sugar levels or participating in healthy behaviors (e.g. lunch time walk with co-workers).

    Consumer perspective: What do I need to do to meet my health needs and goals?

    2. Educating- Providing access to a customized set of health information, pushing informational tips based on needs, interests and profile and testing health information knowledge.

    Consumer perspective: How can you make learning about my health fun, personalized and easy to understand?

    3. Encouraging- Delivering support messages from my social network, clinician and health coach.

    Consumer perspective: How can you support me in reaching my health goals at the right time?

    4. Consulting- Enabling access to a live discussion with my clinician, health coach or mother’s caregiver.

    Consumer perspective: How can you connect me with experts for real time communication and collaboration?

    5. Monitoring- Capturing and viewing information about my mood, pain levels, symptoms, activity levels, diet and sleep.

    Consumer perspective: How can you help me aggregate and organize all of my health information so that I can see patterns to experience “aha moments”?

    6. Deciding-  Accessing a decision support tool about my treatment options or viewing my PHR with links to relevant and "in context" content.

    Consumer perspective: How can I make better decisions by combining my own information with trusted expert sources and accessing this wherever I am?

    7. Managing- Delivering customized messages to help me effectively plan and respond to our health care needs.

    Consumer perspective: How can I change from being reactive to becoming proactive about my health and the health of my family?

    Generating Your Mobile Health Momentum…

    How can you define and design these mobile applications to be most valuable to your target consumers?  Unlike many of the mini-applications that consumers can buy in online stores, you have an opportunity to connect these capabilities such as “monitoring” and “deciding” so that consumers can not only track their activity but also make decisions with the patterns of data that emerge.  

    Think about how you can use “personalization” with your mobile health applications to motivate consumers to stay engaged in their health. How can you help consumers use their mobile phone to communicate and collaborate with their support network and caregivers for better health outcomes?

    How far along are you with your mobile health strategies? Have you selected your priority consumer segments? Have you conducted research to deeply understand their needs, mobile behaviors and attitudes? Have you conceptualized, defined and validated a solution for each segment? Are you ready to pilot the solution with the target segment? Have you defined your measurements for success?

    With experience and industry knowledge in the mobile health space, how I can help you move your mobile initiatives forward?

    Read more about my mobile health technology expertise.

    Listening Online, the First Step to Consumer eHealth Engagement

    In a recent post on “Blazing Your Social Media Engagement Path”, I touched on the value of listening to your target consumers. Their words can bring tremendous insight to your organization about their needs and frustrations around managing their health and the health of loved ones, young and old.

    Start Thinking about the Value of Listening Online

    Consumers are talking in discussion forums, on Facebook, through tweets and blogs. They have the power to impact their social network while sharing their thoughts, experiences and ideas. To tap into this insight and influence, companies are using an online listening platform which gathers, filters and reports on these consumer conversations. Companies are acting on this new information strategically and tactically through their product, program, marketing and customer service groups.

    In addition to these very public venues, companies are investing in private online communities and inviting consumers to share their health experiences using words, photos and videos. Not all online community platforms are the same. There are only a few platforms that enable the consumers to brainstorm, vote and prioritize ideas for new products, services and programs. Companies are leveraging this cost effective online research space by describing new concepts, presenting product screen shots and prototypes and even mocked up marketing materials to ensure that their offering is properly positioned and messaged. And they are getting this input and feedback within hours instead of days for immediate response to meet market needs.

    Although businesses are often tempted to get started and figure it out from there, they can significantly benefit from beginning with an online listening plan which can be refined every step of the way.  Once their goals are identified, it is easier to evaluate public and private online venues, potential technology platforms, determine resource requirements and define success metrics and measurements.

    Online Listening Goals

    Part of the planning process entails understanding best practices. While defining your online listening plan, consider these ‘use case’ goals:

    • Increase Consumer/Patient Satisfaction. Listen to the words and the tone that these consumers are using. What are they complaining about? Is there a misunderstanding that you can clarify? Are they having difficulty finding resources that you already offer? Can their stories be shared internally for training purposes?
    • Improve Consumer/Patient Education. People are actively discussing their health issues online. Many industry experts recognize the anxiety that they feel trying to understand their health problems or interpret their options. Which health issues cause the most confusion, concern and cost? Which patients are having the most “risky” problems (e.g. medications, treatments)? What are their biggest challenges? Are there more effective treatments, less costly options that consumers need to consider?
    • Co-Create with Consumers through an Online Advisory Board to Design Offerings for Engagement
      • Enhance Online Products.  Within a private online community, your target customers can provide input and feedback on your proposed offerings. Which features are “need to haves” versus “nice to haves”? How can you identify and define the functionality that is missing such as mobile? Within the context of their life, how can your product be enhanced to help them maintain control over their health?
      • Develop and Market Compelling Programs. The online private community can also be leveraged to “capture the words” of your target audience, shaping both your program design and the marketing of that program. How are these consumers articulating the value they see in the program? What changes would they make if they were creating the program?

    Benefits of Listening Extends Throughout your Company

    As you devise your own list social media goals, think about which departments within your company will benefit. One best practice is to assemble a cross- functional team to participate in the planning and realize the gains of your online listening efforts.

    It all begins with the first step of listening. Engaging consumers is the next step.


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