Can healthcare learn anything from how Disney treats customer engagement? Kendall Lockhart sure thought so. The idea inspired the former worldwide head of product for The Walt Disney Company’s interactive media division to launch Me+U in 2016. The communication platform was designed to combine the consumer connection expertise of Disney with the collective expertise of a board of healthcare experts to improve the lives of healthcare consumers. Through a HITRUST CSF certified platform, they aim to engage consumers with secure, personalized, interactive messaging that better fits into their lifestyle. What was a novel concept five years ago has become a model many are turning to following the impact of COVID-19.

PM360: What did you bring from Disney when you were designing this platform?

Kendall Lockhart: When I came from Disney and consumer interactive engagement, I noticed that healthcare had not taken up three key legs of the stool, which is still true five years later.

One was that they were not using mobile, which is where people live. Studies show that over 80% of American health consumers want their information via SMS—not email. Second, people were not using photos or videos to capture clinical information and share it back and forth. For instance, if someone has a wound post-surgery, it’s much better to share a photo or a video back to the clinicians rather than a phone call. Third, people in healthcare were not talking to family caregivers. There are over 55 million Americans who take care of someone they love for free, and globally it’s even larger. The fact no one was talking to those people was my biggest shock.

What I brought from Disney is to mirror what consumers are really doing in their real lives. For example, one of my first projects was a cute, interactive computer game for 101 Dalmatians. The first day of testing we had 300 five- to seven-year-olds playing with it and suddenly they stopped. We found out that the screen was blank for a minute while its was loading a beautiful piece of reward animation, but they just thought it was broken and stopped being engaged. Overnight, I had to create a little 3D bone that would spin while it was loading. The next day the kids were giggling and laughing. It turns out they liked the bone more than anything else.

Two lessons out of that: don’t leave a five-year-old with nothing to do and you never know where the answer is going to come from about what’s engaging unless you listen to your customer.

Do you have any similar stories as you were launching Me+U?

In the beginning, we had clients who thought you could send out text messages and not have them be of value. But we have a real-time data analytics engine that tell us quickly the effectiveness of each message. What we found is the patient may look at your first message, but then you needed to iterate with some advice or other value proposition to the consumer. Part of it was building trust. So if message two actually delivered some value and so did message three, the likelihood of clicking on message four went up. It is like a reverse waterfall approach to deeper engagement.

How do patients actually engage with Me+U since there isn’t an app or anything?

We have a security approach, which is the secret sauce that I can’t share publicly. But there’s a very simple way that a consumer can access the SMS message that allows us to send out personal health information in a HIPAA-compliant way. So consumers don’t have to download an app or login into any kind of portal, everything comes straight to their SMS. That means we can send them personal information related to their diabetes, or more general messages about COVID vaccinations.

When it comes to personalized messaging, is that being done for each specific patient or more general patient groups or personas?

It’s absolutely by patient. One of the most powerful uses of our platform on the engagement side is post discharge. In the past, patients and providers wait for that first follow-up appointment to check on how things are going. But all of our clinicians told u it’s not three weeks later that matters, it’s the first 72 hours.

For example, mom is 75 and she and her daughter were at the hospital. They leave, and mom has permissioned the hospital to allow the same messages from Me+U to go to her daughter. Mom goes home and is taking her meds, but by day two she starts having diarrhea. She’s not going to answer the automated phone call that comes from the hospital. But she’s sent a Me+U message and in there is a question, “How are you tolerating these three usual side effects?” Even if mom may not answer, the daughter probably will and the mom will tell the daughter things that she won’t tell the clinicians. Now that information immediately goes back to the health system where it’s red flagged, the hospital can step in to address the issue, and the mom is going to have a better overall experience.

Are there opportunities for pharma to provide information about medications to patients on your platform?

We haven’t worked with pharma companies yet, but we are open to opportunities around education versus advertising. So, they could provide information to help people understand how to deal with diabetic foot pain or other ways to support their healthy lifestyle in addition to taking medications. We could support those types of programs and it gets served up through our system and is beautifully branded, goes right to the audience, and can be measured it real time.

What’s next for the company?

We’re launching a program by year end called Pharmacy Meets Food. It will be offered in partnership with retail pharmacies, retail groceries, and with health system partners. It’s a simple idea of “food as the first medicine” and making healthy decisions more of a life-affirming series of supportive, community engagements. Instead of telling someone with diabetes to go on a diet, we’re encourage people to also go across the aisle at the grocery store and pick up the other things that support their healthy life. The key is not calling this diet or wellness or anything like that. It is more along the lines of, this is good stuff and let’s have fun and make a happy life. ME+U is really about collaboration and the convergence between traditional healthcare and consumer lifestyle. We see this perfect storm going forward and we’re leaning hard into it.

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