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How We Need to Put Patients First When It Comes to Healthcare

Forrester research finds healthcare providers need to focus on patients to improve outcomes. But 61% have ineffective systems to manage the patient lifecycle.

Industries and brands that have been moving rapidly forward with the engagement of and focus on the customer have created a serious issue for those that haven’t. For every Adidas or Airbnb, there are thousands of businesses that don’t use technology to make the customer feel as if they are at the core of everything.

Why is that a problem for healthcare professionals? Because the personalised experiences customers are having with leading companies has led to new expectations in their dealings with all organisations – improving patient experiences is paramount.

Those expectations are now more evident in healthcare, an industry that has lagged behind others. At all three stages of the healthcare journey – ‘before care’, ‘during care’ and ‘after care’ – there are enormous opportunities to improve processes and quality of care, shifting the focus from immediate illness and injury, to the patient and their overall health.

Treating a patient is no longer about ‘I hurt my knee, so I’m here today to have that fixed’. Healthcare is now focused on preventative care and lifestyle choices, eating right, daily management of chronic illness, exercising, and more. So much of that happens outside the walls of the facility, so without a holistic approach to health management, there’s no way for a healthcare provider to check how things are going.

A recent Forrester study, commissioned by Salesforce, revealed 38% of healthcare providers believe patients felt a strong need for quick and convenient service from their healthcare providers as a top priority. And as a second priority, 28% of providers believe patients want timely and ongoing communication regarding their health needs.

When patients have a real-time question about what they should be doing right now, they have no mechanism to ask that question. They have to organise an appointment and visit the specialist. If they go online and look for an answer, it will not be personalised to their specific situation or reliable.

Healthcare providers are offering an old-school model of engagement that is looking increasingly archaic in the modern world, and they know it.

Just 58% of healthcare providers believe they have the capability to maintain, update and secure their patient data, and 61% believe their systems and processes are ineffective in managing the patient lifecycle.

Lessons from customer experience trailblazers

When patients walk into a clinic, or make contact by phone, email or online, it’s important they feel the healthcare provider understands who they are and what their unique needs are.

What was their last contact about and what are their future needs likely to be? We need to be able to anticipate questions.

Processes and systems within healthcare organisations have not been designed to be patient-first. They were designed to track clinical interactions. And it’s not fair to now expect that healthcare providers can simply snap their fingers and expect their systems do something they weren’t designed to do.

According to the Forrester study, only 53% of respondents feel they can manage and respond to a high volume of incoming patient requirements.

But they are aware of their shortcomings: 60% of healthcare providers rank clinical integration, improved care and patient experiences as their top-priority business initiatives and 49% of healthcare providers rank data analytics, security and compliance management tools as their top-priority IT initiatives, the Forrester study found.

So, we’re talking about a very big change.

There are a lot of people involved and a major cultural shift required. Organisations need to bring their teams along on the journey to become more patient-centred in everything they do.

This is where technology can come in.

We offer a tremendous opportunity to help organisations quickly and allow them to make real-time decisions to figure out what is working in the new, patient-first environment and what is not, both for patients and for staff.

The future of healthcare

I see a tremendous opportunity in Australia to deliver amazing patient experiences that improves health outcomes.

Providers can make systems and processes work for them, whereas in markets such as the US, quality of care, the ability to collaborate and build relationships with patients is constrained by existing and immovable systems, and regulated processes.

Of those healthcare providers who have been early adopters of patient experience technology, the Forrester report revealed:

  • 78% said it had resulted in shorter waiting times for patients
  • 72% said it has provided faster patient access to hospital services
  • 71% had witnessed an increase in patient satisfaction toward hospital services
  • 65% had seen better management of patient data
  • 64% said they had received fewer complaints from patients as a result

In the near future, I see direct access for the patient and as much engagement as they want. Some will want to be fully engaged and some will prefer to be relatively disengaged. The technology will allow that, just as it does with airline frequent flyer and retailer rewards programs.

The industry will deal much more directly and transparently with the patient, with greater efficiency and less red tape. Patients will receive care in a real-time environment and in different physical spaces, including their own homes.

In the current system, some people need their doctors and healthcare professionals to tell them why it is important to be healthy and how their lifestyle needs to change for that to become a reality.

In the future, individuals will have the tools to understand these things on their own, while healthcare providers will develop better familiarity with the specific needs of individual patients at all stages of their journeys.

And it will be a healthcare environment that is good for everyone.

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