The big patient experience investment to thrive in the future: 4 execs weigh in

The pandemic has accelerated consumerism trends in healthcare and patients more than ever are relying on digital technologies to manage their care.

Telehealth has also skyrocketed in the past six months and coupled with renewed drive towards interoperability, it's easier for patients to shop for their care and the healthcare landscape is becoming more competitive. At the Becker's Healthcare Patient Experience + Marketing Virtual Forum on Sept. 2, a panel of innovation and patient experience leaders discussed how patient expectations are changing amid the pandemic.

The panel included Adrienne Boissy, MD, chief experience officer of Cleveland Clinic; Peter Kung, vice president and chief innovation officer of SCL Health in Colorado; Stacey Parkin, chief patient experience officer at MultiCare Health System in Washington; and Ghazala Sharieff, MD, chief medical officer of acute care and clinical excellence at Scripps Health in San Diego.

Below is an excerpt from the conversation. Click here to view the entire panel on demand.

Note: Responses were edited slightly for clarity and length.

Q: What is the biggest opportunity for investment to boost patient experience in the future?

Stacey Parkin: The digital transformation is here. The adoption of these tools has been great but there is more to come. I'm excited about artificial intelligence. I'm excited about the things that it offers. We talked a little bit before about some of the technology that lives in that space. I think that those things that are going to allow it to be easier for patients to access care, that's going to make it more seamless for them, that doesn't increase their anxiety when they go to get care. I think that those are the areas that I would personally be investing in.

The global economic market is changing. Unfortunately, there are businesses closing but there are also businesses looking for more opportunities and they're looking to healthcare. To the extent that they can find technology that makes it easier for our patients and delivers a better experience, a better clinical outcome, those are the things that I think are worth investing in in the future.

Dr. Ghazala Sharieff: I'm going to take a step back. I think we've been talking a lot about digital technology, which is fantastic but what I'm seeing is that people need more help navigating the healthcare system. It has become so complex, even for simple visits. My daughter just had a checkup and just how do you get where you need to go and who do I call?

I see us investing more in true navigators to help people get through. We've got a model with that with our Scripps MD Anderson program. We've got fabulous oncology navigators, which you need for complex care. We should really be offering that to more patients, so that's my goal. Yes, keep the digital technology going but we're going to need to hand hold our patients much better than we have been doing and help them get through this.

Peter Kung: Digital is having a spotlight and it should because like other industries it needs to go under that transformation but, again, it can't devolve into just the technology. That's not the service. It empowers everything else.

We have trust with our patients. I think different health systems need to leverage that. They experienced the speed at which they could change during the pandemic and now it's a time to double down and establish that trust so it provides what we ultimately want: lower cost, better experience, better outcomes.

We do have that and I think we should start putting our investments into really engaging, improving and enhancing that trust.

Dr. Adrienne Boissy: I want to also just comment that in a sea of technology solutions, if I had to double down on something, and something I'm spending a lot of time on now, it would be deeply understanding who we serve. You know, technology applied en masse, doesn't work for the populations we most need to reach right now. Taking the time to invest in understanding both the patients that you serve, who are they? Who are their personas? Why don't they use virtual? What would they rather use? Do they need a phone call?

Understanding their preferences around access and trust and what empathy feels like for them is a space I really don't know that we've spent enough time in. The same for our own people. We have an opportunity to apply the same principles to our own people. We should know their birthdays. We should know how they like to be outreached to. We should apply that interest and curiosity to our own people as well as the patients we serve. That's my investment.

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