Why CIOs are focused on streamlining patient access in 2023

In today's healthcare landscape, patients do not expect a good experience so much as demand it. For a hospital and health system CIOs, delivering that experience starts with time, convenience and removing barriers to care.

Becker's spoke to three health system CIOs to discuss how they are planning for 2023 when it comes to improving patient access. 

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

An e-commerce approach

Raymond Lowe, senior vice president and CIO of AltaMed, based in Commerce, Calif., said health systems need to shift their engagement and patient access strategies to reflect an experience that is better aligned to an e-commerce approach.  

As patients' attitudes shift in how they want their healthcare delivered, health systems must also shift their delivery. 

According to Mr. Lowe, patients want more immediate, on-demand services along with self-service options. For example, if a patient is not feeling well and has researched their medical condition using a symptom checker, they then should have the ability to initiate a telephonic or televideo encounter with the health system and provider. 

This means health systems must move to communicate to patients in their preferred language so that in turn, it fosters feelings of inclusion as well as improves health literacy, according to Mr. Lowe.  

Removing areas of friction

Smooth access to patient care will be critical to the success of any healthcare system, according to Darrell Bodnar, CIO of Whitefield, N.H.-based North Country Healthcare.  

As healthcare organizations look to define themselves, developing rapid, personal, and repeatable processes for patients to access care will be important areas of focus.  

"The patient expectations will be the same as any other established customer verticals to include simple scheduling, multiple choices, price transparency, and customer reviews and ratings," Mr. Bodnar said. "Insurance coverage and prior authorization needs to be automated and transparent to the patient. All paper needs to be removed from this process with a simple yet complete digital onboarding and information collection process. Look for areas of friction and try to remove them."

Trending toward transparency

Patients will tell health systems what they want, and frequently these are reasonable items, according to Randy Davis, senior vice president and CIO of CGH Medical Center, based in Sterling, Ill. 

"Patients have a funny way of deciding for themselves whether what you are offering is convenient enough for them to use. Everyone says they're for patient convenience, yet not enough deliver on it," Mr. Davis said.

Patients are becoming a more-informed consumer base with access to a variety of information resources, and they demand to be more involved in their care. Health systems and providers have to realign their approach to engage patients on their healthcare journey, Mr. Davis said. 

"The revolution of patient choice is well underway. Patient experience is more than a catchphrase," Mr. Bodnar said. "Patient access to care is the key to the competitive care delivery model knocking on our doors. We need to deliver the simplest access and the highest quality of care to be competitive, and it will soon all be transparent."

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