Focusing on the Patient Experience is a Top Priority for the Healthcare Industry
Healthcare organizations are stepping up their patient experience and engagement efforts to address the healthcare consumerism movement. Patients are expecting a high level of customer service very similar to retail and if it is not given, they will look elsewhere for their healthcare needs. Providers are now evaluated by patients through rating systems. It is important to know that some of these sites accept paid advertisements from physicians or promote physicians that have a paid membership. In any case, capturing customer satisfaction data is an important step in enhancing the consumer experience.
The patient experience includes these highly valued points of health care delivery which include scheduling timely appointments, short wait times, easy access to information, and good communication with health care providers. Achieving a positive patient experience requires an individual approach because not all healthcare consumers want the same things. Some may seek value and guidance while others want convenience, to make decisions quickly, digital tools and telehealth services.
According to research by NTT DATA Services, the healthcare consumers surveyed feel digital improvement is needed for the following tasks:
- Searching for a doctor/specialist (81%)
- Accessing my family’s health records (80%)
- Changing/making an appointment (79%)
- Accessing test results (76%)
- Paying my bill (75%)
- Filling a prescription (74%)
While approximately 90% of hospitals have invested in patient portals and consumer apps, utilization by patients is low. A recent Office of National Coordinator for Healthcare Technology (ONC) data brief shows that about 52% of patients have patient portal access, but only about 28% use it. The healthcare industry is beginning to move in the direction of using multiple engagement channels such as phone calls, texting and portal messaging.
Here are some of the latest patient experience trends:
- Using nonclinical personnel to help patients navigate the healthcare system effectively. They are hired based on soft skills, such as the ability to offer excellent hospitality and customer service, show empathy, communicate effectively, relate culturally, and speak the same language as patients. The use of these individuals has been very effective at reducing costs.
- Implementing an EMR-integrated customer relationship management (CRM) platform where information collected by navigators is stored. It should include everything from past interactions, socio-economic factors, education to transportation needs.
- More companies will be implementing wellness programs that include not just physical health, but life coaching, nutrition assistance, chronic disease management, sleep pods and meditation breaks. These programs have shown a reduction in absenteeism resulting in a high return on investment for employers.
- The use of telehealth visits either from home or urgent care facilities will help to manage rising labor costs. These visits are of high quality, convenient and time efficient which rates high for patient satisfaction and experience.
- Over the past five years, primary care visits have declined with the growth in urgent care. Primary care providers and health systems are beginning to reassess their business model to respond to the growing needs of consumers. Some are implementing online appointments and better digital interaction to attract and retain patients. Some are beginning to open urgent care clinics in the community to compete with traditional urgent care providers.
- More patients are using urgent care as an alternative to waiting for an appointment with their primary care provider or going to the Emergency Department.
- There is a movement among large commercial payers in some states to define what justifies an ED visit. For the moment, patients are fighting rejected ED claims from insurance companies and winning.
- Look for healthcare clinics and urgent care facilities to hire more physician assistants and nurse practitioners to fill labor gaps. This may make patients less confident about going to urgent care instead of a primary care physician.
- Look for healthcare organizations to focus on customer loyalty as the industry becomes increasingly competitive.
Improving the patient experience is becoming a top priority for healthcare organizations as they recognize the large role it plays in their future success. What is your organization doing to meet this challenge?
Contributed by: Amy Noel