A new era of healthcare is on the horizon. And it’s defined by a customer-centric culture and the use of technology to align patient journeys with care plans, providing an improved patient experience and eliminating inefficiencies of the past.
The customers of today have unprecedented power. In the private sector, businesses are rapidly transforming to meet new customer demands for personalised and seamless experiences. This focus on customer-centricity now needs to be transferred to clinical and non-clinical settings, because patients expect experiences that are on par with those that they receive as a consumers elsewhere.
Uber knows who their consumer is, Westfield knows who their consumer is, Adidas knows it too, so why doesn't a healthcare provider?
Why is it that if you visit different care facilities or parts of a health organisation, they see you as a new patient every time? It’s the same if you have a procedure. After you go home, you might receive a follow up call, but that’s it. You’re back to being an unknown. It’s a very impersonal process – and needs to change.
In a positive step forward, both public and private healthcare providers are starting to focus on ways they can improve patient flow and make care experiences better. Yet, many still haven’t quite wrapped their head around where and how much technology can help.
But, it’s going to be technology that moves healthcare from the manual processes and short-term outcomes of today to the connected healthcare plans and improved patient flow of the future.
The good news is that there are plenty of efficiency benefits from improved patient flow. With technologies like artificial intelligence reducing mundane and manual tasks from the process, employees will have more time to spend on the higher value tasks they enjoy, like spending time with patients. Not only does this improve the patient experience, it also has a positive uptick on talent acquisition and retention because it lifts employee morale.
Imagine a patient experience where an engagement layer is built into the workflow, so that if a patient goes into facility A and then facility B, facility B knows that they've already been to facility A. Or, imagine if a patient calls a call centre, and the service agent immediately knows who they are and what procedure they’ve had, and the two can have a very informed conversation. This is all entirely possible with the right technology.
A GP can also stay more connected to the patient and provide a care team approach, rather than an individual-to-individual service. With this connected experience, the patient feels much more cared for.
This significantly improves health outcomes in more complicated care situations, such as diabetes, cancer or heart conditions. Technology can help healthcare providers stay connected to the patient, making sure they’re following the care plan that’s critical to their long-term wellness, such as taking medications and scheduling follow-up appointments.
This can branch out to a patient’s support system as well. Family members can take an active role in their loved one’s wellness through an app, monitoring whether they’ve checked their daily blood glucose levels, for example. And if a family member doesn’t receive a notification, or if their readings are not within the correct range, they can check to see what’s going on. That's the power of having everyone connected and informed.
All too often, patients get trapped by bad habits once they leave a healthcare facility, so the more we can keep patients engaged and their support systems engaged, the more we can deliver them a holistic path to wellness.
St John of God Healthcare is making patient-centricity a priority. To start with, they’ve centralised data on a single platform so they can provide a connected experience, not just during admission but all the way through each patient's journey before their hospital visit.
In choosing a technology solution, the private hospital operator also wanted a scalable product that would help increase efficiency. With automated prioritisation of workflow, St John of God Healthcare can now focus on providing more personal care.
Technology is a key enabler of a patient-centric future in Australia and New Zealand, and presents immense opportunity, because it’s almost a blank canvas. Yes, there are many organisations that have electronic health records. But, there are many organisations that don't, instead relying on manual paper processes. And the organisations that do have electronic records use them the way they see fit as the use is not regulated.
Additionally, technology can add a layer of security to our health data that hasn’t been there in the past. Rather than the nation’s health records floating around on a piece of paper, they can be securely stored in the cloud, where there’s teams of people managing security.
Healthcare providers are also able to gain a real-time understanding of patients’ experiences – good or bad – and the reasons for that. This will be important in a future where patients are empowered with the knowledge of their peers’ experiences through online reviews.
Fighting against rising costs, outdated systems and increased patient expectations, transformation is an imperative for the healthcare industry. While there’s a general willingness among the sector to transform, it’s largely at the start of that journey. Leaders are looking into what it’s going to take and how they’re going to do it, and then working out how to be flexible enough to drive that change throughout the system.
One of the biggest challenges in providing a better patient experience and improving efficiencies is identifying where to start. What pain points in the overarching process should be transformed as a matter of priority? Keeping in mind that with any change exercise it’s important there are early wins that build momentum.
Equally, you can’t successfully transform without an overall strategy and plan of attack. While some things might change over time and you can only tackle a couple of areas at once, the organisation needs to know the direction it’s heading in.
If in doubt of the best way to lead change, healthcare leaders should look outside of the health industry for inspiration. There are many Trailblazers in Australia and New Zealand overhauling their organisations, fulfilling strategic missions to meet customer expectations and digitally transform. And the biggest piece of advice they have is to consider the people and process elements of a transformation. This is often more important to success than the technology itself.
Overall, there's tremendous opportunity for Australia and New Zealand to become a world leader in administering smart, patient-centric healthcare. Providing it can seize the opportunity and initiate change, today.
Find out more about ways technology can improve customer experiences and achieve efficiencies in the new State of the Connected Customer research report.