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August 28, 2020

How to engage stakeholders in healthcare

Modern healthcare delivery is increasingly becoming a group effort. To create successful patient outcomes, each stakeholder must be engaged thoughtfully and regularly.

Thanks to specialization in the healthcare industry, modern healthcare delivery is increasingly becoming a group effort. From the insurance companies to the lab analysts to the care delivery team, there is an incredible number of individuals involved in each stage. And to create successful patient outcomes, each stakeholder—be they clinicians, payers, researchers, or other key decision-makers—must be engaged thoughtfully and regularly.

Wondering how to engage stakeholders in healthcare?

Let’s review.

Who are stakeholders?

Stakeholders are the individuals and organizations that healthcare companies leverage to ensure that quality healthcare is upheld and that new initiatives produce positive and sustainable change. But each healthcare entity must determine its own stakeholders.

Generally speaking, stakeholders will be a mixture of patients, providers, payers, policymakers, product makers, principal investigators, and purchasers involved in the entire care process.

For public health, the CDC groups stakeholders into three major brackets:

  • Programs operations – Management, program staff, partners, funding agencies, and coalition members.
  • Those served or affected by the program – Patients or clients, advocacy groups, community members, and elected officials.
  • Intended users of the end product – People who could make decisions, including partners, coalition members, the general public, or taxpayers.

Why is it important to engage stakeholders?

Recently, there’s been an industry-wide shift toward patient-focused, value-based care. In the name of patient centricity, a much greater emphasis has been placed on incorporating the patient’s voice throughout every stage of the care delivery journey.

What is stakeholder engagement? It is more than just incorporating the patient voice—it’s about including individuals across all levels of the healthcare system in order to ensure that health research, development, and delivery are tailored to real-world scenarios.

So, why should you focus on stakeholder engagement? Benefits include:

  • Better decision making – The wealth of information gathered via a variety of unique stakeholder perspectives enables healthcare providers and researchers to develop more robust and applicable technologies, services, and care delivery processes. Additionally, having informed individuals advising and collaborating throughout every step of the journey can help you prevent many of the mistakes that might otherwise occur.
  • Education – Regular communication can provide new insights and a better understanding of key members’ needs and concerns.
  • More pointed investment – Time and resources are limited. It’s important that you direct them where they are most needed. With stakeholders, it becomes much easier to identify what projects produce the most value.
  • Cost savings – Similarly, taking advantage of important stakeholder expertise can save your business money by eliminating complications that might delay the project or cause it to go over budget.
  • Trust and credibility – Incorporating the voice of as many key stakeholders as possible throughout every aspect of the process is vital for building trust in both your organization and its service or product. It signals to them that you value their perspective and want to leverage that expertise. Creating a culture of collaboration will also improve your reputation over time.
  • Risk management – By including the council of more experienced and knowledgeable individuals, you can mitigate risk and address potential issues in a proactive manner instead of reactive. This also improves accountability throughout the entire organization.
  • Happier stakeholders – When multiple stakeholders are engaged, when their voices are included, they’re far more likely to be satisfied, which means fewer headaches for you.

Techniques to engage stakeholders

So, how do you actually ensure that multiple stakeholders are meaningfully engaged?

Here are a few techniques you should consider:

Put the patient first

Collaboration is the foundation of stakeholder engagement. And that starts with the patients.

But it’s not simply about listening to their voices. You must also acknowledge, value, and then leverage their opinions to make changes or improvements to your processes or policies. According to the Patient Experience Journal:

“This includes transparency regarding information shared and used, consideration of time and volunteer costs, patient engagement planning and evaluation and above all, providing stakeholders with what matters most to them – having the necessary orientation and education, supports and tools for patient engagement that results in positive outcomes for the patient and for all levels within the organization.”

Although other parties can offer significant value and should be included throughout the process, you can’t forget that patients are the ultimate stakeholder. It’s their voice that must be prioritized first and foremost.

The pyramid of stakeholder engagement

In 2015, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) outlined a 5-step engagement pyramid that helps engage: “all relevant stakeholders—across gender, age, race and ethnic groups, socioeconomic status, health and disability status, and location—in the decision-making process.”

Here are those five steps:

  • Inform – Ensure that all stakeholders are informed and educated about your goals and processes from the outset and then regularly updated as the journey continues.
  • Consult – Listen to the thoughts, concerns, and stakeholder feedback and then act upon them when it’s wise to do so.
  • Involve – Coordinate with stakeholders to ensure that their concerns and advice are reflected in your processes and decision-making.
  • Collaborate – Work with stakeholders to find solutions to problems.
  • Empower – Include stakeholders in the decision-making process.

By layering these actions atop one another, you form a solid stakeholder engagement foundation that will last throughout the lifecycle.

Digital centralization

COVID has highlighted the importance of having technologies that make it easier to collaborate across geographies, teams, and experts. In a world where stakeholders may be separated by time zones, languages, and other barriers, a technology solution like Within3 empowers your organization to champion and centralize all communication.

What does this provide?

  • Aggregated insights – All data is located in one place and accessible to key stakeholders. Additionally, AI can gather insights and then provide detailed summaries and data sets to formulate a unique view.
  • Experts recognition – Proprietary analytics help build a map of all relevant stakeholders, including scientists, practice leaders, influencers, and thought leaders.
  • Collaboration – You can host ongoing engagements with stakeholders that make it easy to share information and communicate seamlessly.
  • Trial design – Utilize asynchronous and real-time digital interaction to harness stakeholder experience in order to better understand how to create more successful trial outcomes.

How to develop a stakeholder engagement strategy

So, how do you create a stakeholder engagement strategy while also leveraging the techniques discussed above?

Follow these steps:

Identify stakeholders

Different projects may require different collaborative partners. And to get the most out of your project, you need to determine which stakeholders could provide the most value. For this, the first task is to ask yourself questions like:

  • Who would be most interested in the project?
  • Who would be most impacted by it?
  • Who will be involved directly or indirectly by the results?
  • Who can contribute to the project?

Ideally, you want a well-rounded group of individuals and groups that can contribute to every stage of the project.

Classify stakeholders

Not all stakeholders are the same. Therefore, the way they interact and the frequency of interaction will change from one to another.

Some will be involved throughout every phase, whereas others may only be involved for a small amount of time. And there will be those that have the power to impact the project, and those that don’t have much if any, influence.

Knowing how to properly interact and prioritize can be tricky. But you can facilitate the process by asking poignant questions like:

  • What are their needs and reasons for being involved?
  • What is their interest in the project?
  • What are their motivations? Is it financial, personal?
  • What do they desire from you?
  • How do they want to be communicated with?

According to the Healthcare Supply Chain network, you can then prioritize them according to their interest in the project and the influence they have via a stakeholder’s power-interest grid:

Design a stakeholder engagement plan

Once you’ve identified and classified the stakeholders, you then need to determine the best ways to engage them. For this, you need to know the purpose for engagement and the best time to do so while ensuring that stakeholder involvement is aligned with their interests and motivations.

Once you’ve done so, remember to utilize the five-layer technique of:

  • Inform
  • Consult
  • Involve
  • Collaborate
  • Empower

Along these lines, make sure that you have a technology platform that empowers engagement across all parties and efforts. By making them feel included and their voice heard, you can demonstrate your commitment.

Within3 – your stakeholder engagement platform

Modern, value-based care requires stakeholder engagement throughout every phase of the healthcare delivery process. By including them, you empower your organization to:

  • Identify and prioritize research
  • Provide actionable insights and feedback
  • Help researchers better understand patient perspective
  • Increase the project’s value
  • Establish trust and credibility

And for that, you need technology that drives stakeholder engagement. Here, Within3’s complete insights management platform can help life science companies select, connect, and discover every vital stakeholder.

Want to learn more about modern and effective stakeholder engagement? Request a demo today.

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