How to Provide an Omnichannel Patient Experience

Your patients are on an omnichannel journey to receive care. Their search for a physician probably begins on Google, but it does not end there.

Patients comfortably visit a wide range of touch points such as social media and third-party physician review sites to find care. They use scheduling tools on smart phones to book appointments, and after they’ve received care, they might use their smart watches and devices to monitor their health using a provider’s wellness program. And they expect a seamless experience.

The omnichannel nature of healthcare discovery is having a dramatic impact on the future of how healthcare is provided. The context of the patient experience is changing: from where the healthcare facility is located to where the patient is searching for care. Succeeding in an omnichannel world requires healthcare systems to provide a connected patient experience across the entire patient journey, from awareness to choosing care. Doing so means harnessing data and contextual content to guide patients through the right touch points at the right time.

The Roots of Omnichannel Discovery

Omnichannel discovery in healthcare is a natural reflection of the way consumers find what they need in industries ranging from retail to financial services. Mobile devices remain the center of their universe, and Google continues to reign as the king of search engines. But omnichannel patients use many other platforms and devices to find what they want. And no wonder. Consider a few telling statistics:

● Americans own four digital devices on average and they spend 60 hours a week consuming content across devices, according to Nielsen.

● About 44 percent of patients who found physicians and private practices on their mobile devices book an appointment (per a Google/Compete study), and 86 percent of physicians believe that mobile apps and devices will play a major role in their practices, per Healthcare Informatics.

For many years, healthcare has resisted the trend toward omnichannel discovery owing to the fragmented nature of care across multiple facilities, physicians, insurers, and ancillary services such as lab testing. But the industry is changing because consumers, having experienced the
possibilities that omnichannel retail provides, are forcing change.

For instance, patients reasonably expect to order a breakfast at Panera Bread from their mobile phones and then have their order waiting for them when they walk into the restaurant, with Panera staff having complete knowledge of the order, and Panera updating the customer's order history for a frequent visitor rewards program. Patients expect the same of healthcare. In essence, patients want their healthcare service to travel across devices and channels
with them. They want to book an appointment online and offline through any device or
channel. When patients arrive at the physician’s office, they want the physician to possess complete knowledge not only of the appointment details but also of the patient’s history.

Healthcare Systems Respond

Healthcare systems are responding by providing elements of omnichannel discovery. For example, Advocate Health Care works with the SIM Partners Velocity Health solution to collect and distribute its physician and facility data across the entire search ecosystem, and the information is optimized for multiple devices so that it is viewable in omnichannel fashion.

The Mayo Clinic offers a healthcare app that stores personal patient data, which makes it possible for the Mayo Clinic to offer more personalized care information based on
what the Mayo Clinic knows about each patient. These two providers are among the pioneers of omnichannel care providers, and more are following. To full embrace omnichannel, I believe healthcare systems need to do these things:

1. Understand your patient's omnichannel journey

Examine the entire journey your patient takes from home to facility. Ask questions such as:

● How many touch points do they encounter?

● Which devices and channels are they using to do initial symptom-based or service line research?

2. Create a foundation with location data.

Once you understand every touch point your patient uses, ensure that your brand is visible on each one through location data. In an omnichannel world, it’s not enough to possess accurate data on your physician pages. You’ll need to distribute your facility data across all the places where discovery is occurring, ranging from Facebook to mobile apps such as Google Maps.

3. Optimize content for each channel and device

But in an omnichannel world, healthcare systems need to provide contextual content appropriate for mobile devices and wearables, where people are meeting different kinds of needs. consider also the reality that patients are adopting wearable devices, which are often used for health monitoring. Healthcare systems have an excellent opportunity to provide content such as branded apps that patients can use to monitor their health.

4. Create patient access

Patients expect healthcare systems to offer the same level of on-demand care that they receive from the best retailers. Even if you are not in a position to shuttle physicians to patients’ front
doors, there are many steps you can take to be more responsive. I advocate that healthcare systems create patient access, or the action that a patient takes after finding a healthcare system. Patient access may include, for instance, physician-scheduling tools that make it easy for patients to book appointments online.

Where Omnichannel Discovery Is Headed

Healthcare systems are transitioning from treatment to proactive wellness – which has an impact on the omnichannel experience. Omnichannel care means a number of things, such as reaching out to patients with healthcare tips and setting up wellness programs, as more progressive
healthcare systems are doing. But by harnessing physician and facility data more effectively, healthcare systems can offer more personalized care to patients regardless of what device they use. The Mayo Clinic healthcare app provides a glimpse of the possibilities: personalized recommendations about exercise and self-maintenance based on a patient’s own health conditions and needs.

And as wearables take hold, this kind of proactive care will only become more personal and effective. Under Armour smart shoes, released in 2016, are embedded with computer chips that track consumers’ mileage and fitness level. It’s easy to envision a scenario in which healthcare systems offer wearable devices that track data and reward patients for managing
their health effectively.

The time is coming, and sooner than you think, for omnichannel discovery to become omnichannel care. Are you ready?


The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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