Digital Needs a Dance Partner: Accolade’s Raj Singh on Why Technology Alone Can’t Solve Consumer Engagement


How healthcare companies can integrate high-tech and high-touch to finally crack the consumer engagement code.

Raj Singh

4 min read

Accolade, which is co-headquartered in Philadelphia and Seattle, provides healthcare concierge services to employers, health plans, and health systems. It marries highly personalized service with high-tech analytics and data mining to help consumers navigate their health benefits and healthcare experience. In an earlier post, Accolade Co-founder and COO Tom Spann wrote about the “magic formula” for consumer engagement. Here, Accolade CEO Raj Singh expands on the themes of that post, offering his view on how healthcare companies can integrate high-tech and high-touch to finally crack the consumer engagement code.

We all understand that healthcare costs are skyrocketing at an unsustainable rate, expected to grow 6.5 percent through 2017. The healthcare system is treating more people than ever, with an aging population and many more high-risk and chronically ill patients being treated, which drives an uptick in healthcare utilization. Providers’ caseloads are growing as fast as costs are rising, yet the time they have with each patient is still constrained. Meanwhile, health plans are looking for ways to enhance support options for their growing member populations. The landscape is volatile and requires new thinking and approaches to controlling costs and supporting people in making smart decisions about their health.

The answer coming from many corners is “digital solutions.” Consumers have gone digital in nearly every aspect of their lives, and healthcare is proving no exception. Technology can support consumers in their demand for better, more efficient ways to receive high-quality care that is personalized to them.

But technology can’t stand alone. People need support to cut through the complexity that’s still foundational in our health system.

To deliver truly targeted, personalized care and foster meaningful health engagement, organizations need to harness the incredible power that lies in taking a blended approach to care management, with equal parts personal touch and technology. No matter how robust the data, cool the tools, or insightful the analytics, technology alone is not the answer.


  • Big data is just data, unless converted to meaningful information. The healthcare industry as a whole is generating billions of data assets every year, but we need to pause and question how is that data driving better awareness of individuals, their needs, conditions, decisions, outcomes and effectiveness? For example, central to any effective population health management strategy is data – but the data needs to work for you. At Accolade, we achieve this through a custom platform that is built on an analytics engine with machine learning built in, so it learns from itself and becomes more meaningful and insightful the more data is ingested.
  • Data needs human context. Natural-language processing is also unlocking incredible insights and empowering both consumers and support teams with the right context that leads to more efficient communications and interactions. At Accolade, new mobile and telehealth solutions are helping consumers and our Health Assistants engage wherever and whenever the consumer needs support, adding another layer of efficiency and effectiveness.

According to Accolade research, 80 percent of consumers feel it would be valuable to have a single, trusted person to help answer questions for any health-related need. As highlighted in Oliver Wyman’s Ten Digital Trends report, companies’ digital futures will depend on the emotional bonds they create as much as functional superiority.

But technology can’t stand alone. People need support to cut through the complexity that’s still foundational in our health system.

At Accolade, our focus is on this precise balance – using technology when individuals want it, with human interaction and support when they need it. For example, a member recently called with a question about their bill. In reviewing the statement, we noticed blood tests and other procedures that triggered questions by our Health Assistant. We were able to discuss their health on a deeper level, which led to personal and trusted conversations about their care plan, not just their bill.

Every time a patient engages with our platform, it becomes a gateway to gathering more rich data, earlier in the care process – and not just claims data, but contextual data on their lives, concerns, and decisions. These learnings empower our Health Assistants to deliver highly personalized support that keeps consumers engaged and healthy, while also developing relationships built on trust. These relationships get us to the “why” behind healthcare behaviors, which can directly influence outcome and cost.

When you have technology, science and human compassion all working together, you can make a real impact on some of the toughest issues that employers, health plans, and providers are dealing with – including effectively managing specialty drug spend, decreasing avoidable readmissions, improving the impact of sub-optimal benefits programs, and identifying behavioral health needs that impact nearly every decision in their lives – including health care.

Only through the right combination of human relationships and intelligent technology integration will we achieve the kind of consumer engagement and lasting impact the industry needs. It’s on the industry as a whole to deliver the right mix of high-touch and high-tech to meet consumer demands – giving people a care support team and technology platform that’s personalized, innovative, simple, and effective.

  • Raj Singh