10 steps to engage patients in mobile, online health and wellness platforms

Bryce Willians, director of health and wellness at Blue Shield of California, shares tips on how to get people to use wellness applications--and keep using them

Payer or provider, there's no question that the trend toward wellness and preventative care will continue--it was a hot topic and recurring theme at America's Health Insurance Plans' 2012 Institute in Salt Lake City last week.

The motivation on the part of payers is clear: Drive down the cost of care by keeping the population as healthy as possible. So what motivates patients to participate?

One answer: Online and mobile platforms that borrow tactics from social media and gaming. But it's more complicated than it sounds. You can build the platform. But that doesn't mean anyone will actually use it.

Social media and other platforms must be part of an organization's DNA in order to succeed, said Bryce Willians, director of health and wellness at Blue Shield of California (pictured).

Speaking on a panel about social engagement, he offered several other pieces of advice for engaging members and patients in their own health:

1. Don't be academic. Rather than preaching, create a dialogue with employees, members and patients about the topics that really matter, offering a "field guide of health."

2. Make it fun. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but the bottom line is most folks love games--and hate dieting. But there's no mutual exclusivity between enjoying yourself and being healthy, Williams said.

3. Don't build walled gardens. Two of Healthways' mobile and online platforms, Shape up Shield and MeYou Health, are open to anyone who wants to participate; not just Healthways members. Participants can build their own teams of people they know. That's much more enticing than interactions with strangers. As personal connections increase so does engagement, Williams said.

4. Use trusted recruiters. New adopters are most likely to join when recruited by friends a co-workers--not their insurance company.