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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    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 

    Seven Strategic Directions for Engaging Employees Through eHealth

    RedBrick Health Employees Participating in the Biggest Loser Minnesota ChallengeDuring the Healthcare Unbound conference in San Diego last week, I started our “New Directions in Employee Engagement” panel with an overview of innovative approaches that are emerging.

    1. Employee Driven. Companies are moving beyond surveys and focus groups, which gather a snap shot of insight, to co-creating with their employees in a private online community.  Within their intranet, these employers are enabling their employees to surface new ideas, define new products and programs suggested by co-workers and prioritize where they want their employer to invest their limited health and wellness resources. During the conference panel, Lisa McGill, VP, Worldwide Human Resources from Brocade, discussed their online BHive community where their WellFit Employee Advisory Council innovates on wellness offerings.  

    2. One Integrated Program on One Platform. Employees struggle every day to keep their job, family and personal life on track. Instead of promoting many separate ways for their employees to pay attention to their health, companies are bringing all their initiatives into a single and integrated program. Employers are tying their health risk assessments, screenings, social challenges and coaching in with their reward program to incentivize their employees. At the same time, they are simplifying the process with an integrated technology platform. With this holistic approach, employers are able to monitor the elements of the program that are driving healthy change while experimenting with new elements such as mobile applications to generate engagement.

    3. Customized Approach.  “My employees work in a call center and do not have time to attend our onsite wellness sessions but would be interested in watching a webinar for example around stress management”, explains a large technology employer.  The key to engaging employees is to understand their lifestyle profile and customize a program that fits into their day and aligns with their technology comfort. Think about how different the Health & Wellness Program may be for a technology firm than a manufacturing company. One size does not fit all.

    4. Personalized Experience.  Some of the biggest mistakes that employers are making is distributing all of their content to all of their employees or assuming that one area (e.g. walking programs) appeals to all of their employees. More innovative employers are enabling each employee to determine how they want to participate based on their interests and needs. These employers are also letting their employees set their content and communication preferences which guide their multi-channel experience.

    5. Influencer Enabling. With the emergence of social health related challenges within a company and the associated online social network to connect teammates, employers are noticing that certain employees are having a positive impact on the health behaviors of others.  Employers are starting to arm these influencers with online tools and resources. Some companies are calling them “Wellness Ambassadors” or “Wellness Champions”.  Employers that have many different offices with limited budget are leveraging these influencer representatives to generate engagement throughout their company footprint.

    6. Social Currency.  Employers are letting their employees create social currency by providing a space on the intranet to share.  Employees are uploading pictures, videos and writing stories such as how Susan lost 50+ pounds or when Joe participated in his first triathlon. Why is this social currency valuable to employees?  It is inspirational, insightful and meaningful since these contributions are from fellow employees with whom they have a common bond. This social sharing is particularly powerful when an employee turns their experience into a mini- challenge to other employees. Bryce Williams, Director of Wellvolution, Blue Shield California mentioned that throughout their 6- week employee social competition, there were “over 1,000 viral wellness challenges”.

    7. Family Engagement. “We are trying different approaches to get the spouses to participate in our health programs,” explains a large financial services employer. Employers are extending rewards to the spouses to motivate their participation. This is particularly important since employees make many health and wellness decisions on a daily basis with their spouses and we all know that negative behaviors can be costly.  How are employers engaging with families in a positive way? During the panel, Pat Sukhum, Co-founder and Marketing Director at RedBrick Health described their Biggest Loser Challenge which this year was extended to the community and to employee’s families. “One of the largest divisions in Challenge included over 3,400 participants who signed-up as teams of families to compete and improve their health together,” Sukhum noted.

    Each of these new directions in employee engagement requires a technology solution to power the capabilities described.  Given that each employer and set of employees is different, it is important to determine what is needed and how to tune the solution to deliver the communication, collaboration and challenges to engage employees and their families.  

    New Directions in Employee Engagement: Competition, Coaching, Community & Compensation

    Our Panel at the 8th Annual Healthcare Unbound Conference 2011

    According to a recent Towers Watson survey, fewer employees have taken "action to improve their health” in 2010 than in 2008 (59% compared to 65%) which is a surprise given the rise in chronic conditions. Further findings are that “27% would not participate in wellness efforts without incentives”.

    What are employers and health plans doing to successfully motivate consumers to participate in their wellness initiatives?

    During this panel on employee engagement, you will learn:

    ·   How virtual coaches are getting personal and gaining results

    ·   Ways social graphs are being used to map and leverage influencers

    ·   How reward strategies and behavioral economics are being utilized to produce behavior change

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


    • Bryce Williams, Director, Wellvolution, Blue Shield of California
    • Pat Sukhum, Co-Founder & Director of Marketing, RedBrick Health
    • Lisa McGill, VP, Worldwide Human Resources, Brocade Communications Systems (Self Insured Employer)


    Aetna Grows Engagement With MindBloom’s Social Gaming, Networking and Rewards

    "I do not want to disengage with my life to engage with my health…you want me, find a way to weave it into my life.“ ~ Quote from 2010 Health 2.0 Conference

    As I viewed an in-depth demo of Aetna’s new social solution, I immediately noticed the unique approach they are taking with the Mindbloom platform.

    My Tree

    Mindbloom uses a tree metaphor to represent the different areas or branches of a person’s life. Let me share my thinking as I envision “My Tree”.

    I am empowered to design my tree with branches that are important to me; health, relationships, lifestyle, leisure, finances, spirituality, creativity and career.

    As I identify and complete an action of my choice, a new green leaf appears on the related branch. For my health, I may decide to add my own action to “complete my dance class this week”.  When I overlook an area of my life, over time my leaves turn brown on that branch.

    There are other trees from friends and family that I have invited to join my forest. I control what each of them sees. My closest friends and family view each leaf and can comment to acknowledge my accomplishments and support me when there are setbacks.

    As I grow my tree, I strive for balance. I begin with a few branches and get them strong before adding others. In time, I envision having a vibrant tree.

    When completing actions, I receive rewards that unlock new features including the option to select a new forest background or the ability to upload my own photos for inspiration. 

    Through my mobile phone, I can update my actions, journal my progress, view my friends' progress and send messages for encouragement. This lets me “grow on the go”.  Beyond the existing mobile web capabilities, Mindbloom will be launching a much more robust native iPhone application in the fall timeframe. 

    “People will not track every day” explains Kyra Bobinet, Medical Director eHealth & Wellness at Aetna. “This tool is a repository where they will come in and out. We will give consumers reasons and stimuli to continue their journey for a healthy balance”.

    Elements of Engagement

    Although I have seen many health related games, this one is customized, comprehensive and compelling.

    Here are five elements to drive consumer engagement:

    1) Personal. My tree looks different than yours. It has specific branches and leaves that are important to me.

    2) Holistic. I extend my tree with branches from different aspects of my life beyond health. In fact, the growth of one branch influences another. When my health branch is under stress, my relationship branch is impacted.

    3) Social. My forest has trees representing my friends and family. We are all there to support and strengthen each other. This forest is changing all the time and I am drawn back to take a look.

    4) Rewarding.  As I reach new milestones or succeed in maintaining a healthy balance, I am rewarded in many ways. In addition to feeling better, I receive points as well as recognition through my private forest and public social communities (e.g. Facebook). And I am also rewarded seeing my “Tree Summary” displaying my accomplishments.

    5) Fun. Like any interactive game that keeps my attention, this one is full of surprises. My points take me to new levels which reveal new opportunities for growth.

    Engagement By Design

    Before designing this solution, Aetna conducted extensive research with consumers. They learned that consumers want Aetna to make it “more fun”, “easier” and “rewarding”.

    I am most interested in seeing how engagement grows and which segments of consumers are motivated to develop and nurture a balanced tree of life.

    Disclosure: I worked with the Aetna team on concepts before the Mindbloom partnership.

    6 1/2 Secrets For Engagement from Top Consumer Driven Companies

    My client recently revealed that he really valued the different perspectives that I bring, from consumers and competitors to companies inside and outside of healthcare. There is so much that we can learn from an “outside- in” perspective.

    Last week, I led a panel at the Community 2.0 Strategies Conference and listened to engagement successes from the most innovative consumer driven companies in the World. Just like healthcare organizations, these companies are compelled to capture the mind -share and influence the mind -set of the incredibly busy and often overwhelmed consumer.

    6 ½ Secrets For Engagement

    As you review these consumer-centric examples, think about the healthcare opportunity that I have outlined under each one. What other ways can these success factors be leveraged to motivate engagement in your company? 

    1. Peer to Peer Influencers Are Powerful

    Microsoft has a vibrant online community of MVPs who are “independent experts” leading discussions and sharing advice with their peers. Microsoft has set up a formal program with processes to identify, reward and transfer knowledge with these Influencers.

    Healthcare Opportunity:  Imagine ways to leverage the “Patient Expert” to encourage and support others in the community. This Expert knows the topics of interest, understands the issues facing these patients and can speak the patient’s language.

    2. Education Builds Relationships

    Verizon Residential has created an online community called “Room to Learn” which teaches consumers about the evolving set of technologies that they need in their home and how these technologies play together.

    Healthcare Opportunity: With the expansion of the Patient Centered Medical Home, consider how we can educate consumers about technologies that will empower them from tele-health for chronic care management to technologies that support ‘Aging in Place’ for seniors and caregivers. After all, isn’t increasing self-management an important goal of healthcare? 

    3. From Crowd Sourcing to Friend Sourcing

    Trip Advisor shared their move to integrate their site with Facebook and bring consumers travel reviews from their own personal network. Although they are still evolving this capability, Trip Advisor understands the value of trust in the decision making process.

    Healthcare Opportunity:  When consumers participate in a coaching program, think about the role that their personal network can play in supporting their goals and celebrating their achievements. Although the consumer may interact with their coach a few times during the week, their personal support network is with them all week long.  

    4. Rewarding the Right Behaviors

    Dell, a veteran in the online community space, is working hard to define behaviors that they want to reward. Dell is most interested in recognizing “helpful” behaviors. For example, one community member shares advice with another which results in a positive behavior.

    Healthcare Opportunity: As employers look for ways to take their company- wide social challenges to the next level, imagine finding ways to reward team captains and co-workers who contribute to the healthy success of their fellow employees. 

    5. Employee Engagement Leads to Consumer Engagement

    Sega video games has created a “Wall of Awesome” which posts feedback, input and overall inspiration from their customers. As Sega employees continually visit this wall, they are more motivated to participate in the community and spotlight these members in the online community.

    Healthcare Opportunity: It takes a company to support a healthcare consumer. With care management so fragmented, employees often do not hear about the ways their co-workers have helped or about the appreciation that some have received. Imagine having an online intranet area where employees share these stories with their colleagues and bring the inspirational stories back into the online community.

    6. Content Driven Before Channel Driven Engagement

    Over time, Dell has taken a more holistic view of driving online engagement. Their approach entails starting with their content, of which 40% is “user generated”,  and then thinking through how the different platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and other public and private Dell communities) can use this information.  Dell is most interested in what content is being consumed and how their customers are interacting with their company through these different online touch points.

    Healthcare Opportunity: Innovative healthcare organizations enable consumers to set both their channel and content preferences. Instead of continuing to add content providers (which are the same information sources being used by their competitors), these healthcare companies are spending more time evaluating, organizing and highlighting unique content generated by their community members.  This “user generated content” delivers a valuable and differentiated experience for the consumer. 

      6½ Integrated Content and Community for Impact (Extension of # 6)

    NBC shared the redesign of their iVillage women’s community where they connected their content,  member community and experts to motivate much higher participation. Now in one place, members can now read an article with comments from their community members and experts.

    Healthcare Opportunity: Instead of forcing consumers to find content across separate online spaces, leading healthcare companies are starting to connect these content sources to present different perspectives on the health issue from various authorities both personal and professional. As a result, consumers are spending more time exploring the information to support their health decisions.

    Although you may not have the budget to fund all of these engagement opportunities, you can learn from the successes of other consumer driven businesses. With this new insight, your company can make better investments in the game of consumer engagement which will result in a win-win.