In most industries customers of today have unprecedented power. In the private sector, businesses are rapidly transforming to meet new customer demands for personalised and seamless experiences across multiple channels. This focus on customer-centricity now needs to be transferred to clinical and non-clinical settings, because patients and service users expect experiences that are on par with those that they receive as consumers elsewhere.
Amazon knows who their consumer is, Tesco knows who their consumer is, Adidas knows it too. And they join up the dots seamlessly to give market leading customer experience.
So why don't all health and care providers do this? Why is it that if you visit different parts of the NHS, they see you as a new patient each time? It’s the same if you have a procedure or if you have a new baby. After you go home, you might receive a follow up call, but that’s it. The next organisation in the chain comes to visit and you’re back to being an unknown. It’s a very impersonal process – and it needs to change.
Wolfgang Lippert, Senior Medical Director at Salesforce, recently joined Will Smart, CIO of the NHS along with other senior leaders in the public health space on a panel at the Digital Healthcare Show, where some of these topics were discussed.
A new era of health care 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 experience for patients and service users, and eliminating inefficiencies of the past.
In a positive step forward, both public and private health care providers are focusing 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 health care from the manual processes and short-term outcomes of today to the connected health care plans and improved patient flow of the future.
The good news is that there are plenty of efficiency benefits from improved patient flow, with some patient flow trials and live implementations within single organisations suggesting that an average NHS Trust with an annual spend of £400M may be able to save in the region of £50M per year as a result.
With technologies like artificial intelligence further reducing mundane and manual tasks from the process, staff will have more time to spend on the higher value tasks they enjoy, like spending time with patients and service users.
Not only does this improve the patient experience, it also has a positive impact on talent acquisition and retention because it lifts employee morale. With average role vacancy rates of around 10% this could hardly be more important for the NHS right now.
Imagine a patient experience where an engagement layer is built into the workflow, so that if a patient goes from GP A, then Community Health Trust B, to Acute Trust C, Acute Trust C knows that they’ve already been to GP A and Community Health Trust B. Or, imagine if a patient calls NHS111 and gets a call back from a doctor, and the doctor immediately knows all about the patient’s history so that they can have a well-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. This can branch out to a patient’s wider 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.
With this connected experience, the patient or service user feels much more cared for, which can significantly improve health outcomes in more complicated care situations, such as diabetes, cancer or heart conditions. All too often, patients and service users get trapped by bad habits once they leave a health care facility, so the more we can keep them and their support systems engaged, the more we can deliver a holistic path to wellness. That's the power of having everyone connected and informed.
Health and care providers are also then able to gain a real-time understanding of patients’ experiences – good or bad – and the reasons why. This will be important in a future where patients are empowered with the knowledge of their peers’ experiences through the online reviews that will inevitably proliferate.
Technology is a key enabler of a patient centric future in the UK, and presents immense opportunity because it’s almost a blank canvas. Yes, there are many organisations that have electronic patient records provided to them by some excellent, forward thinking EPR suppliers. But, there are many organisations that don't, instead relying on poor solutions or on manual paper processes.
And how many of the organisations that do have electronic records have joined up those records with every neighbouring Trust and relevant care organisation in their ecosystem? None so far.
Fighting against rising costs, outdated systems and increased patient expectations, transformation is an imperative for the health care industry, as illustrated in the Five Year Forward View. While there’s a general willingness among the sector to transform, STP implementations are 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. It’s not easy. And digital technology must naturally play its part.
If unsure of the best way to lead digital change, healthcare leaders should look outside of the health industry for inspiration. There are many Trailblazers fulfilling strategic missions to meet customer expectations and digitally transform.
Some of the largest suppliers to the private sector haven’t traditionally worked with the UK’s Public Sector, but solutions already exist. STP leaders should take the brave step of reaching out to suppliers they haven’t traditionally worked with, and those suppliers need to step up and deliver customer success.
There's a big opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in administering smart, patient-centric health care. 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.