Don't underestimate the healthcare patient experience

A few years ago, I first heard that hospitals and clinics were investing in hiring Chief Experience Officers (CXO) to focus solely on the patient experience.

It was an incredible validator that the days of patients solely choosing providers for strong medical prowess were gone. Instead, today’s patients are searching for reputable medical practitioners AND an unparalleled experience.

An article in Managed Care described the movement aptly: “Just as luxury brands like the Four Seasons hotels and Mercedes Benz make a point of pampering their customers, health care providers and insurers are looking to coddle theirs, and they’re hiring CXOs to make sure they do it well.”

In many ways, the very brands we’ve come to love—think Amazon, Zappos and Uber—are the very brands making our job as healthcare providers increasingly complex. Patients are exhibiting consumer-like behavior, comparing hospitals and clinics against everything from medical aptitude to price to quality of service. And it means that providers must do better when it comes to leveraging information technology to deliver the ultimate patient experience.

The Impact of Healthcare Consumerism

With patients expecting consumer-like experiences everywhere where they go—from the retail store to their physician’s office—the pressure has never been greater for healthcare IT leaders to provide innovative solutions that put the patient at the center. From the moment they arrive at a hospital or clinic to the time the patient spends in an examination or operating room to when they are discharged, they are expected the “Rolls-Royce” treatment.

At the same time, the competition has never been greater. I recently drove down the I-84 Connecticut corridor and was amazed at the billboards every other mile touting the “next best hospital” in that area. What can determine the “best” hospital could very well be the patient experience.

What is the Ultimate Patient Experience?

Remember when a patient would visit his doctor; have his or her blood pressure taken; get advice to check their blood pressure regularly for the next three weeks; and then return to the doctor three weeks later with blood pressure information written in a notebook? Today, patients expect to be able to use their tablet at home, login via a client portal and record their blood pressure which is instantly sent to their clinician.

Or consider this example. A patient arrives at a hospital and from the moment she enters the parking garage, she is expecting next-gen technologies to have the most pleasurable patient experience possible. That means everything from an expedited admission process to a smart TV in her room that offers not only Netflix, but Telemedicine and video home functionality. When she is discharged, she is not looking for a stack of paperwork and told to visit her doctor again in three weeks. Conversely, she expects everything to be sent digitally and to have the ability to videoconference with the physician’s assistant in three days to make sure she is doing OK. She then expects regular video check-ins.

This is the experience patients crave today. Those institutions that can master the integration of technology into their operations to benefit the patient immediately enjoy a huge competitive edge.

Today’s hospitals and clinics must view themselves through a hospitality lens, remembering that patients have choices where they can obtain their care. Consequently, many institutions are increasingly investing in patient-oriented programs addressing new technologies and methodologies to employees.

Patients expect an unparalleled experience —characterized by fast service, seamless communication, enhanced collaboration tools and innovative Telemedicine solutions.

Here are three things providers must do to improve the experience of their customers:

1. Leverage the Latest in Telemedicine: a Telemedicine Survey from Foley & Lardner LLP revealed that 90 percent of healthcare executives were already developing or implementing a Telemedicine program. That number has risen since then as telemedicine solutions offer a variety of benefits to patients, from reduced healthcare service costs to increased patient engagement. One of the biggest barriers to developing a Telemedicine program, however, is the training, expertise and infrastructure needed to support the program. These critical components must be rock solid.
2. Account for Ransomware: It’s long been understood that hospitals and healthcare institutions are prime bait for ransomware attacks. In fact, a report from Solutionary Security states that the healthcare industry is hit “significantly harder” by ransomware than in any other industry with 88 percent of attacks hitting hospitals. To improve the patient experience, healthcare providers must account for today, tomorrow and the day after that to improve their security posture. That can mean everything from upgrading firewalls to building a layered approach for defense. It’s imperative to take the time to ensure that comprehensive backup and recovery processes are in place, and to approach security with an “assumption of breach” mentality.
3. Connect More to Your Patients: A common refrain from healthcare organizations is that they are searching for ways to leverage technology to more effectively reach their patients—from the patient a stone’s throw away to the one located 50 miles down the road. Imagine the possibilities created by harnessing technology to alleviate complexities caused by geographic distance. Suddenly, a 70-year-old patient suffering from emphysema no longer must drive an hour in the car with his oxygen tank to a hospital for his follow-up visit. Instead, he can videoconference with his pulmonologist and have his vitals sent through remote monitoring technology. This level of care and personalization can be the difference between recurring patients and one-time visitors.

This is only a sampling of the techniques that healthcare institutions can employ to greatly improve the patient experience to deliver better care. What is your organization doing successfully today to create a heightened level of experience for its patients?

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