A patient engagement strategy, to be effective, shouldn't be applied with a broad brush over an entire patient population.

Different consumers enter the health care system with different cultural backgrounds, needs or expectations. Hospitals need to better grasp those nuances if they want to truly excel at patient engagement, says Kate Berry, CEO of the National eHealth Collaborative, a public-private partnership working to improve the use of health IT and bolster the patient-centeredness of care. The nonprofit is in the midst of developing a "patient experience framework" that maps out the different types of consumers, their ideal experience and how they want to engage with hospitals.

"The reality is that, while health care is all about patients, the way our system works hasn't necessarily been very patient-centered in general," Berry says. "People have different needs and different readiness for how actively engaged they want to be in their own care. That causes variations. Some people may be very, very engaged patients who bring in information to their provider and want to know everything about their condition. Others may really just want the doctor to tell them what they need to do or know. People are different and providers are different."

Patient engagement has become top of mind for hospital leaders as their organizations shift to a more value-driven approach and as related meaningful use requirements continue to kick in. It affects a hospital in many ways, from patient care to readmissions, technology, health literacy and patient satisfaction.

Last year, NeHC worked with some 150 experts in the health care field to develop its patient-engagement framework, a sort of blueprint to help guide hospitals in perfecting their patient engagement strategies.

Now, the organization is looking to take the next step by developing a "patient experience framework" to help "clarify what it means to meaningfully engage patients," according to a press release. They're planning to do so by getting into the heads of patients, starting by asking the question "What experience does a patient want to have with their health care providers, health system records and health education?"

NeHC is hosting a series of webinars, starting with one at 2 p.m. ET today, asking participants to put on the hats of six different patient personas pulled from a Deloitte study on consumer segmentation. Today, those include "Janice" (takes control of her own health and is open to alternative solutions) and "Nancy" (is driven by value and seeks the biggest bang for her health care buck). Future sessions will take place tomorrow and next Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Berry hopes the framework, which will be released in early 2014, will help doctors to determine what sorts of consumers they're addressing with their engagement strategies, and how to best deploy technology to keep the patient involved. The ideal ways to engage the patient are going to be constantly changing going forward, she says, and hospital leaders should stay vigilant.

"There's not going to be an end point," Berry says. "There are simple things people can do to get started, but you can't ever really declare victory."

While we're on the subject, I'm working on a feature for the print edition of H&HN about patient engagement and would love to hear what your hospital is doing to stay connected with its customers. What are you doing in this regard to differentiate yourself from the competition? Share your thoughts in the comment section, or reach out to me on Twitter or through email.