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How Can Providers and Health Plans Improve the Patient Experience in Healthcare?

Hint: Reimagining patient engagement to mimic the ease of Amazon shopping or the personalization of Netflix can improve the patient experience.

A patient and a doctor speak via their computers
Reimagining the patient experience in healthcare means to mimic the ease of shopping on Amazon or the personalization of Netflix to improve the patient experience in healthcare. [Jimena Roquero/Stocksy]

The patient experience in healthcare has been permanently altered by the pandemic, and healthcare providers and health plans alike are finally prioritizing a friendly, customer-focused experience.  

Healthcare consumers are increasingly more comfortable and willing to use telehealth and virtual care, but patient healthcare will remain in person. The key for organizations to be successful is to thread virtual care and in-person care together based on patient expectations. And to do so in a seamless, integrated way. That integration is called click and mortar; a hybrid model that combines elements from both virtual and in-person healthcare to deliver better health outcomes more reliably and efficiently.

An Accenture survey of 2,700 patients found that 60% wanted to continue meeting with healthcare providers and manage their care remotely, using technology implemented during the pandemic. Physicians are on board, too. Sixty-seven percent of clinicians at a large practice view virtual consultations as an acceptable alternative to in-person appointments. This evolution in patient preferences calls for a new approach to the patient experience.  

While the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital tools in healthcare, more work needs to be done. A survey of health systems professionals by the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM) and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that fewer than one in three respondents believe their organization is providing best-in-class digital experiences for patients.

The brick-and-mortar hospital isn’t going anywhere, but it needs a digital face. Consumer-facing companies and services have demonstrated that people love using tools that are smart, predictive, and digital-first.

Integrating digital tools and solutions into the ecosystem is key to building comprehensive patient experiences in healthcare. A patient engagement platform can more easily meet these new patient demands for convenience and ease of use and help reduce the cost of care delivery. 

Here’s how to build a hybrid healthcare experience that actually works for the patient.

Up your digital engagement game

The brick-and-mortar hospital isn’t going anywhere, but it needs a digital face. Consumer-facing companies and services have demonstrated that people love using tools that are smart, predictive, and digital-first. Amazon recommends products and then tells you how and when they’re arriving. When Google’s not serving up search results, it’s reminding you to respond to last week’s email. Netflix makes personalized recommendations based on what you’ve watched. Like these apps and platforms, hospitals need to rethink their tools and processes through a digital-first lens. 

Build intuitive journeys that improve the patient experience in healthcare by enabling patients to better understand and adhere to their care plan. The right technology can turn patient acquisition and care plan adherence into something that fits into patients’ lives.

With the right technology, data, and integrations between health, billing, provider, and medication systems, hospitals and clinics can streamline how they schedule appointments, verify patient insurance, and answer questions.

Take Hinge Health, the self-described first all-digital clinic for joint and back pain. They’re reimagining healthcare for a digital world. Their care delivery model includes everything you’d typically find in a brick-and-mortar clinic: Private physical therapy sessions, personalized health coaching, and real-time feedback from sensor technology. The difference is that patients access these services from the comfort of their home. Hinge Health’s platform provides patients with support and empowers them to take charge of their own care. This model shows how patient outreach and engagement can improve when they feel informed and encouraged.

Double down on virtual care

When the pandemic hit, some health systems rushed their telehealth implementation out of necessity. But now’s the time to reassess virtual care programs and build ecosystems for long-lasting success.

  • First, it’s key for patients to be able to check in digitally whether they’re at home or heading to the clinic. 
  • Second, they need access to virtual care technology that doesn’t break under the weight of increased adoption. 
  • Third, patients need to trust that virtual care is at least as effective as the care they’d receive inside a hospital. 

Virtual care only works when it’s a critical component in a health system’s technology play.

Deliver exceptionally convenient patient experiences 

Health systems must redesign care delivery to suit patients’ busy lives and online habits. With the right technology, data, and integrations between health, billing, provider, and medication systems, hospitals and clinics can streamline how they schedule appointments, verify patient insurance, and answer questions. The upside for patients is a more connected way to manage all aspects of their care. 

Companies that do it right understand that convenience signals trust and a commitment to the customer, end user, or patient.

We expect – no, demand – convenience in most aspects of our lives, and healthcare should be no different. It’s no longer a nice-to-have. Companies that do it right understand that convenience signals trust and a commitment to the customer, end user, or patient. Reimagining patient engagement to mimic the ease of shopping on Amazon or the personalization of Netflix can improve the patient experience in healthcare. Patients want the on-demand experiences to which they’ve become accustomed in other parts of their lives. 

At a time when patient preferences are changing, there’s no question about whether to adapt. Technology can cut legacy IT costs and prevent longtime patients from straying toward new providers. The only question is whether your healthcare organization will watch patients leave or welcome the defectors with open arms.

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