Understanding Patient Personas In 1 Easy Step

kind of a big deal

I’ve been in one too many meetings where it has been obvious to me that when I use the term ‘persona’ that it is not resonating the way I hoped it would. Sometimes the people in the room think I misspoke, adding an ‘a’ to the word that did not belong. That is when I get the turnip in the headlights stare.

Normally I would not waste a blog over a single letter, but that little ‘a’ has a lot to do with why so many companies are in left field when it comes to effectually implementing consumerism, access, and engagement.

For without personas, you are left with people. All of them. And sorting our what they need with regard to population health, accountable care, and wellness is impossible.

And because I think best when I think simple, I am going to present a simple analogy that will allow everyone to understand personas and how they relate to healthcare.

USA Today; the newspaper. I do not think anyone actually pays $2.50 cents for it, but if you travel, you get it for free at most hotels. So let’s look at who travels. Pretty much everyone; people of all shapes and sizes and interests.

And so, for USA Today to be viable, it has to offer something of interest to a very wide range of people with differing interests and through different channels. In their wisdom, USA Today decided that if it wrote about news, sports, life, technology, travel, and opinion, it would have enough varied content to interest everyone at least for as long as it takes to waddle through the Holiday Inn’s continental breakfast.

So, here is everything you need to know about the application of personas to healthcare. Every health system, including yours, has six to ten, different groups of people into which everyone who needs to interact with your system can be placed. The premise behind creating personas is that each group has something about their needs and interests that differ a little from another group, even though many of their requirements and expectations will be similar.

The purpose of understanding personas has nothing to do with marketing or selling. It has everything to do with connecting, and with connecting in the way with which they want to connect and with meeting the expectations of the members of each different group. People looking for a human connection in a way that understands their needs. (A call center is not a human connection. Nor, is a website.)

A patient persona is a fictional representation of an archetypal member of the group. The persona is not a statistic; it is not a demographic. Your personas may be informed by data, but they are not confined by data. Think back to USA Today. Think of the entire paper as the population you serve, and the individual sections as the personas. The editor has to know what the fictional sports fan wants to get from the paper that is different from what a fan of lifestyles may want.

For starters, let’s create the following creating these basic personas:

  1. Inpatients
  2. Outpatients—see, that wasn’t too difficult
  3. Family Members & Caregivers—you may wish to break this into two separate groups
  4. Referring Physicians
  5. and…drumroll…Prospective Patients—the largest group

I implore you to hold off breaking down personas into service lines and areas of specialization until you first work out these five personas. Yes, the needs of a cancer patient are very different from an asthma patient, but remember where your organization is now in its ability to handle even basic telephone access.

Everyone is in at least one of these groups. Many people are in more than one group. Some of these groups are more focused on care, while others are more focused on buying your services.

The determinant of which group a person belongs varies over time. For example, an outpatient, at some point in his or her life becomes an inpatient. Let’s call that variation over time the patient’s health journey—more on that later.

Unfortunately, the way patient and customer access works today, all of us have to waddle through the very same, one-size-fits-all path to our health system and our payer. What makes it even worse is that that path was built way back when Al G. Bell invented the phone.

Now, once you get going on personas, to get your best result, you need to incorporate how all of the different access channels come into play; calling, using smart devices, and social media. The experience you create and the functionality you deliver should be consistent across channels. And when you think about designing the experiences for the channels, the number one thing to keep in mind is that the channel of choice for the vast majority of people is mobile. Start designing the experience for mobile, and branch out from there.

If you did not find this helpful, you can delete the blog by installing BleachBit.  The BleachBit software can be downloaded for free from Hillary Clinton’s website.

I’m Paul Roemer, and I approve this message.



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