How to be like Amazon with your patient experience

You often read about the “retailing of healthcare” in context of healthcare systems providing more patient-friendly environments, loyalty programs, and better service.

The irony is that the retail industry is struggling through an upheaval caused by the advent of Amazon. Healthcare systems may do well to adopt the Amazon model for service. That model focuses on:

● More effective discovery. Amazon is one of the world’s most popular search and discovery platforms. Exploring Amazon is an efficient, fast, and personal experience. You can either browse products for more open-ended queries or find exactly what you want when you want it. Now contrast the Amazon experience with the all-too-typical struggle of finding a physician on a healthcare find-a-doctor directory. Many healthcare systems require patients to navigate a complicated path with many dead ends and confusing results. Healthcare providers have a golden opportunity to upgrade the patient experience simply by improving the find-a-doctor navigation experience with more elegant search functionality, including filters that personalize results based on the search criterion that matter most to patients, such as insurance accepted by physicians.

● More useful data and content. Amazon flourishes also because its inventory is well organized and complete. Whether you’re looking for a book or a futon, Amazon typically provides a combination of data (such as price and availability) and deep content (such as extensive product descriptions and customer reviews). Progressive healthcare systems also combine data and content to drive traffic to their physician pages. The data includes essential information such as name, address, and phone number. The content includes deeper, more descriptive information that helps a patient better understand a physician’s areas of specialty, their personal missions, and other background. In addition, more healthcare systems are sharing visual content such as videos of physicians discussing wellness care. Strong data and content comprise the foundation for findability.

● Easy access. When you want to buy something, Amazon makes the purchase easy. It takes just a few clicks to become a paying customer. Similarly, healthcare systems can become more like Amazon by encouraging the “next moment,” or the action that happens after a patient finds you through a search. For example, a next moment may consist of appointment-booking functionality, in which patients can easily set up an appointment with one click on a physician’s page. Creating next moments is especially crucial for healthcare. Physicians typically keep different hours on different days of the week at multiple locations. It’s not always easy to book an appointment over the phone especially if you happen to call on a day when the doctor’s office is closed. Being able to handle the transactional side of healthcare online accelerates the patient journey from search to care.

● Being mobile. Amazon graduated from the desktop experience a long time ago. To be sure, the desktop site remains a popular destination for doing complex product research prior to purchase. But the Amazon mobile app is effective for when you know what you want and possess a strong intent to purchase. Similarly, mobile-friendly discovery helps healthcare providers meet the needs of patients on their mobile phones who have already completed complex research and might simply want quick information such as the address of a known physician or the nearest emergency room. In addition, mobile is especially useful for providing wellness care, such as apps for helping patients manage symptoms and fitness. More and more healthcare systems are not only creating apps but partnering with manufacturers such as Apple to provide the devices required to manage personal health.

For many healthcare providers, providing an Amazon-like experience begins with having the right talent onboard. For example, in recent years, Banner Health hired Alexandra Morehouse, whose pedigree includes being CMO at AAA and chief marketing information officer at Charles Schwab. Aaron Martin, executive vice president and chief digital/innovation officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, formerly worked at none other than Amazon. Acting like Amazon begins with the right perspective that sometimes requires hiring outside healthcare. But consistently acting like Amazon means combining data and content with an elegant search experience to give patients what they want when they want it.

Eric Borchers is SIM Partners' Director of Enterprise Sales. In 2016, Eric joined SIM Partners bringing over 33 years of healthcare experience, including 10 years working in hospital. His background includes experience in healthcare information technology, accountable care organizations (ACO), and patient engagement strategies. Now Eric's primary concentration is patient acquisition, access and engagement in addition to improving provider visibility in online search with a focus on mobile optimization.

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