It’s easy to feel hopeful on a beautiful day like today.
But in the end we all face difficulties.
Everyone has dark days when they feel alone, lost and buried.
And the most powerful things that helps us move forward is ahope
And we want to become a hope for those who need it most
5 practical Patient Engagement Strategies in Digital Healthcare apps
Aug 28, 2023
3 min read

What are the Benefits of Patient Engagement in Healthcare?


Times have changed, and the focus in the Health industry has shifted towards patients and their engagement.

You might be surprised, as everyone talks about patients being at the forefront. But in reality, a significant number of people don’t complete the entire app journey during the onboarding process, even though they might have initially engaged with the application. After interacting with a doctor, they simply forget about the app.

And this doesn’t just apply to telemedicine apps that aggregate services from various doctors. It includes apps created by medical professionals for performing specialized exercises for the lower back, breathing, and more, or even just sessions with doctors/coaches.

Even in such cases, patients might forget to perform exercises and eventually “give up” on them. All of this is attributed to poor Patient Engagement in healthcare.

What are the Benefits of Patient Engagement in Healthcare? Patient Engagement is indeed the primary factor by which people decide to switch service providers or medical plans.

For instance, 41% of patients stop using an app due to poor engagement, and 38% cite lack of personalization and patient understanding as reasons to consider switching apps and services.

So, how can you make this patient engagement ideal in healthcare? To achieve that, all you need to do is follow these 5 simple steps.

I. Start engaging before the encounter with the patient

1. Automate the basics: for instance, if a majority of consultants (if available) in the app are booked, the patient might not know whom to schedule an appointment with based on their symptoms.

That’s why good apps use a questionnaire or even a symptom checker feature before scheduling an appointment with a doctor.

Example: a patient receives an automated text message prior to their appointment with a link to a questionnaire. This form collects information about their medical history, allergies, and current medications.

This proactive step saves time during the actual appointment and ensures that the medical team is well-prepared to address the patient’s needs.

2. Guide the patient from start to finish: a potential patient might not understand where or how to schedule an appointment, or worse, they might begin to distrust you.

This problem is resolved through proper onboarding, which includes: social proof, absence of jargon, accessibility for various demographics, and the presence of incentives.

As examples of the latter, you can show features like a diary, a calendar of achievements, or even gamification during onboarding (we’ll discuss gamification in point 4).

We’ve delved deeper into all aspects of onboarding in the article linked below. We’ve also gathered over 20 top onboarding examples in the Digital Health industry.

The article & 20+ examples of engaging digital health onboarding

It was the first of the patient engagement strategies. After we’ve gathered basic patient information and guided them through the onboarding process, the next step is to create a personalized experience for them.

II. Segment patients and personalize their experience

Consider the range of people your app is intended for and the many use cases you may develop for each.

1. Demographics & medical history

Common demographic data includes biological sex, age, and sometimes even ethnic background.

With such information, you can create tailored personalized messages before a direct consultation or even match the patient with a suitable doctor for communication.

This approach fosters a sense of significance for the patient and can help elevate engagement levels.

Description of the condition: this entails the symptoms identified through patient questionnaires or symptom checkers. However, this isn’t about doctor-patient communication apps, but rather about specialized automated apps (for instance, for therapeutic exercises).

Depending on patients’ ages, illnesses, and fitness levels, there might be subdivisions within the patient group.

For young, healthy individuals, personalized training schedules and dietary advice could be offered to help them achieve their goals. For older patients, emphasis might be on fall prevention and mobility exercises.

For example, when we developed the Longevity app for Sumu (a Swiss company that helps people increase longevity through personalized coaching), we provided extensive options for personalized nutrition and exercise goals.

Furthermore, the initial personalization was based on DNA tests, making patient engagement and experience in healthcare particularly profound.

Learn how we created a mobile app with bio-marker analysis & coaches

2. Segments can also be divided using a unique interface tailored to each user group (B2C, B2B)

For instance, we created various user interfaces for students, psychologists, and schools in the Allbry app. 10,000 students have used this practical app, with over 100 contracts with Swedish schools.

Both segments of the target audience are interested in using the application daily (every day) due to the value of understanding and obvious segmentation.

Students can see chats and appointments.

And schools and psychologists can see general and particular statistics on student success.

Learn how we’ve built telemedicine mental health platform for Swedish startup

Prepared to work with the patient? Now it’s time to get to know them 🙂

III. First introduction: practice shared decision-making

Shared decision-making contradicts conventional healthcare practices, but offers more opportunities for patient engagement and better health outcomes.

Traditionally, patients seek assistance so that medical specialists can leverage their knowledge, training, and experience to determine what’s wrong and how to fix it. This is because it’s assumed that patients lack adequate education.

Shared decision-making changes this narrative, democratizing healthcare. Instead of a dictatorship where the doctor makes all decisions, shared decision-making puts the patient on par with the doctor. They collaborate to make decisions about necessary tests, treatment options, and final patient care plans.

Shared decision-making demands more time as it involves significant patient education investments. Nevertheless, involving the patient in their own medical care enhances patient engagement in healthcare and significantly boosts satisfaction.

Remember, you should provide choices: different patient types are more inclined towards a true partnership in their treatment, with collective health goals, while other segments prefer more directive guidance.

The degree of shared decision-making should be tailored to each patient.

Here, besides telemedicine apps, specialized apps can be cited as examples. For instance, for the Swiss brand Incorpo Studio, we created an app that offers personalized spine exercises with professional guidance.

Patients can discuss their spinal exercise program separately with a specialist and find the most suitable option for them.

Learn how we’ve built health platform for physical wellbeing

Now, the most challenging part is ensuring that the patient doesn’t forget about their treatment. The next point show how patient engagement affects health outcomes.

IV. Treatment: about importance of involving patients in their care

This point reveals the importance of involving patients in their care. When a car isn’t working, a mechanic diagnoses the issue and then fixes it. Unfortunately, this same mindset has been adopted by many clinicians. They believe their job is to diagnose patients, create a treatment plan, and then move on to the next patient.

While undoubtedly an effective approach to healthcare, it perpetuates the stigma around medicine as cold and detached and acts as a barrier to achieving high-quality medical care.

This approach categorizes patients by the state of their health rather than holistically, as individuals with different motivations, priorities, and needs. What are their challenges or obstacles to receiving care?

1. Create motivation for your users

The most common issue in digital health patient engagement. One of our friends, Harry, shared a story about how in 2019 he was supposed to perform specialized therapeutic exercises at least 3 times a week as prescribed by a surgeon.

However, the problem was that he wasn’t meant to improve his health, but rather to prevent the progression of scoliosis to avoid worsening.

But after all, what harm would missing one session do? Or two?

That’s where the concept of progress and reward systems comes into play.

The first element: it’s the journey itself. You should allow the patient to accumulate visible progress. And as childish as it may sound (not all adults enjoy games), we’re not talking about turning the app into a game.

We’re referring to the idea that a user wouldn’t want to give up their accumulated progress, which can be lost. They’ve invested a lot of time and can see all the efforts put in to achieve a high level/rank, and they might even compare themselves to other users (which undoubtedly fills the patient with pride).

And if you add the ability to customize an avatar, it becomes easier for the user to identify with a character whose level is growing within the app.

In this scenario, having the stick of level decrease, the user will psychologically find it harder to not follow the prescribed treatments related to their health.

The second element: these are additional rewards tied to progress.

Let’s delve into the intricacies of the reward system depicted in the image below:

Incorporated here is a sophisticated system that incentivizes users to enhance their progress. It’s a concept reminiscent of how avid gamers often replay games to unlock “achievements.”

The key lies in the fact that to make progress and earn these “achievements,” users need to engage with the product more frequently. This reiterates that incorporating such a system is an essential factor for boosting the retention rate and influencing revenue-related metrics like LTV (Lifetime Value) and ARPPU (Average Revenue Per Paying User).

But how does the patient engagement strategy work in finer detail?

The app furnishes users with specific information, tasks, questionnaires, or similar engagements. However, to maintain users’ sustained interest in your app, a sense of motivation is crucial.

While offering quality information is inherently motivating, modern users have grown more discerning. Our objective is to evoke fresh emotions and differentiate ourselves from the competition.

Upon obtaining the required input from the user, we express gratitude for their invested time and their choice of our product.

What’s pivotal is the manner of our gratitude: we shower users with a series of rewards, accompanied by captivating animations or images. Through this process, users experience a release of endorphins, feeling valued and appreciated for their time.

But these aren’t all the possible gamification elements that you can employ in your app. Below, we’ve written a comprehensive article about gamified mechanics in digital health apps.

3 Main Components of Gamification to engage users in Health Apps

2. Increase motivation with a social moment

One of the most favorite patient engagement strategies. You’ve probably had experiences where misfortune struck you. But at the same time, you’re likely to feel relief when you encounter someone who has faced the same issue, as if somehow things become easier for you.

This happens because our brain simply receives evidence that real people around you have gone through it, and you’ll get through it too.

To create this effect, it’s essential to establish a community of real people within the app: for communication, support, and sharing achievements in their treatment journeys.

Keep in mind that social networks have become a global sensation for a reason, and if an app can foster the same sense of community, it will encourage users to engage and use it again. Foster a sense of belonging and invite participation by creating forums, polls, or a list of top contributors.

For instance, in the ProgressMe app (an app that aids young individuals dealing with eating disorders), we added features like creating polls and content, including comment sections for discussion.

Learn how we’ve built platform for eating disorder treatment

3. Make patients take the problem seriously

On the other end of the spectrum from hypochondria, there’s the commonplace “it will pass on its own” or “I’ll treat it with less effort.” Of course, from a mental health perspective, this might be a sound approach, but from any other standpoint, such thoughts can be fatal for the patient.

Here, we must provide a disclaimer before explaining this point: you should use only truthful information and remember the Hippocratic Oath.

Therefore, we don’t advise overusing this point, but you can justifiably, backed by real data, instill concern about the patient’s condition through scientific content that explains why it’s necessary for the patient to take their treatment seriously. Naturally, don’t forget about the positive aspects as well.

Hence, the best advice here is to try incorporating small content blocks into the actual App Journey:

For instance, in the screenshot above from our internal app, we use small educational content blocks as part of the treatment process.

This way, the user gets engaged without becoming fatigued, as there’s a significant and balanced variety throughout the entire treatment journey.

4. Make sure that patients do not forget

Moreover, even after appointments, reminders (push notifications) are essential. For example, you can conduct specific daily sessions with the patient, but even in such cases, it’s important to notify users, just to be on the safe side.

V. And a bonus: ending of relationships

This point of patient engagement strategies in healthcare is applicable only to solutions that involve post-treatment/post-operative care. Just because a patient has completed their primary treatment doesn’t mean they are fully healed physically or emotionally.

Post-operative care is an integral part of any patient’s treatment plan, but unfortunately, there are cases where over 40% of patients misunderstand, ignore, or prefer not to follow post-care instructions.

When post-care instructions are complex or require significant lifestyle changes, non-compliance can reach up to 70%.

How can we assist patients in such cases? By utilizing the practices mentioned in the previous point: we can motivate users through community engagement, gamification, and content. The form remains the same, but the content changes.

We hope this article was useful for you!

Who we are? We are a digital health product studio, who transforms healthcare digital experiences and sets new standards for delivering digital healthcare in a way that positively impacts people’s lives.

We assist healthcare startups in designing and developing digital products, while also helping healthcare organizations undergo transformative changes.

If you are interested about our experience check our portfolio with case studies by the link or you can read more about us here.

And write to us now on and we will discuss how we can help ensure that your product brings real benefits

Other posts from our blog
Research lab
3 min read
3 Main Components of Gamification to engage users in Health Apps
According to Deloitte, gamification has been proven to have significant, positive effects on patients’ health by promoting adherence to treatment, fostering resilience, and increasing motivation to fight diseases. But how does gamification do it? We will talk about this in our article and show how gamification methods can be applied in health applications.
Research lab
4 min read
Keeping users engaged: 5 practical retention strategies for Digital Health apps
Advanced entrepreneurs, product managers, and marketers know that working with existing customers is easier than acquiring new ones. But what are the ways to retain, engage, and motivate users to consistently return to your app? Recently, we decided to revisit our most effective retention strategies that we have developed for Digital Health applications. We want to share this experience with you today.
Link copied to clipboard