- By Andrew Broderick
- March 10, 2022
In driving down costs and capturing recurring revenues, consumer loyalty is becoming a driver of profitability for health systems. But care access remains a barrier for many Americans. And challenges with patient care access matter for patient experience (PX), especially given the fact that the frequency of visits influences overall quality of care by facilitating continuity in care, as well as it being a determinant of all patient encounters with healthcare providers and services.
With rising consumer expectations for healthcare, the focus on PX improvement has shifted from being a modest priority for health systems to becoming an urgent strategic imperative. With healthcare leaders prioritizing new digital projects and accelerating their existing digital transformation plans, the American Hospital Association (AHA) reports that patient engagement and outcomes is among the leading areas where healthcare leaders are making significant investments in technology with the goal of improving the consumer experience.
Meanwhile, the annual survey of members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), which is dedicated to serving C-Suite information officers, found that more than three-quarters of respondents are investing in enhanced portals and mobile apps, more than half plan to invest soon in technology to expand communications with patients via Short Message Service (SMS) systems, and two-fifths have automated engagement workflows like appointment self-scheduling, referral management and pre-procedure communications.
John Glaser, former senior vice president of Population Health at Cerner, and former chief executive officer of Siemens Health Services, posited in a recent Harvard Business Review article that providers’ mindsets need to evolve if they are to effectively leverage the fast-evolving array of digital technologies to enhance PX. And not only do providers need to view patients as consumers who have the discretion to decide which goods and services they purchase and how, but also that organizational process, social, and culture change are going to be critical to their application in optimizing customer experience (CX) in healthcare.
This is especially salient today as the organization and financing of healthcare services progressively moves to value-based care, where accountability for outcomes and patient satisfaction increasingly will hold providers accountable for the health-related decisions of consumers. Key to providers’ ultimate success will be their capacity to transform services and processes for achieving health, and leveraging data about consumers together with artificial intelligence (AI) to automate and customize their care experiences.
Although digital strategies can solve for many access challenges by affording greater convenience in managing when, where and how patients can access care services, the digital divide continues to present a barrier that prevents many patients from being able to benefit. Approximately 22 million older Americans continue to lack broadband access at home.
In addition to patients not having online access to a provider or for scheduling an appointment, offline realities such as lack of transportation often can prevent patients from being able to see a provider. In the United States, an estimated 6 million people delay medical care due to transportation issues, with missed medical appointments resulting in an annual cost of $150 billion.
As a result of the broader social challenges acting as barriers to actively managing one’s health, providers are hard-pressed on many fronts to identify solutions, and are exploring multiple strategies to overcome these issues. Provider partnerships with rideshare companies as part of the non-emergency medical transportation provider network represent one example. This is one of the ways the transformation in healthcare services and business at the intersection with innovation and technology will redefine PX and CX.
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