Improving digital engagement — patients say, 'Show me you know me'

Patients are consumers. The best brand experiences, whether online or in person, influence consumers’ expectations about healthcare encounters. Today's patients want the healthcare journey to be user-friendly and tailored to their needs.

Becker's Hospital Review recently spoke with Zak Pines, vice president of partnerships at Formstack, about digital engagement in healthcare and how health systems can use technology to create patient experiences that are safe, accessible and personalized.

'Show me you know me'

Patients expect providers to know them. Mr. Pines recounted a personal experience that illustrates what the patient journey shouldn't look like.

"Not too long ago, I scheduled a minor medical procedure. I received a package of paper forms that I had to fill out by hand and mail back to the hospital," he said. "I didn't put enough postage on the envelope, so it was returned to me. It was a nightmare scenario."

Instead of an impersonal, paper-based process, the ideal would have been web-based forms with much of the information prefilled based on the provider's knowledge of the patient. "The key is that the healthcare organization shows that it knows who I am," Mr. Pines said. "They're cognizant of the information that patients have supplied to them in the past. With that data, it's possible to offer a 'review, verify and update' experience, rather than constantly asking people for the same information in a disconnected way."

Create secure, efficient digital workflows for healthcare

Regulations, HIPAA compliance and protecting personal information are critically important when deploying digital workflows. Every healthcare digital transformation strategy must have a well-considered compliance and security component.

A cohesive integration strategy is the key to building a consistent, data-driven experience for patients. According to Mr. Pines, "You need a system of record for patient data and interactions, but you also must ensure that the systems touching the patient — whether that's a website, portal or system for managing referrals — are drawing data from and bringing data into the system of record. This allows providers to treat patients as customers throughout the patient lifecycle." Integrating digital solutions with other systems may rely on pre-built integrations or on APIs.

In addition, digital workflows will evolve over time. Requiring developers or IT specialists to modify process configurations isn't sustainable. "It's so important for healthcare providers to deploy digital solutions that are configurable in a no-code or low-code manner," Mr. Pines said. "Say a new regulation is enacted or there's a change in the source EHR system. If organizations can respond to those changes in an agile way, they will be more likely to continually meet, and hopefully exceed, patient expectations."

Look for ways to drive incremental and measurable improvement in the patient journey

When healthcare providers decide to launch a digital initiative, a good first step is to identify the processes that are creating patient frustration today and consider how they could be improved through digitization. "Survey patients about their experience and how they feel about working with you as a provider," Mr. Pines said.

Two factors that shouldn't be overlooked include mobile devices and remote care. With widespread smartphone adoption, digital workflows must be mobile-enabled so patients have a great experience interacting with providers — whether that's scheduling an appointment or participating in a virtual visit.

Rather than focusing on large-scale, long-term projects, it's better to focus on solutions that will generate results in days and weeks, not months or years. "Don't try to boil the ocean," Mr. Pines said. "If you can deliver solutions in a shorter time frame, you will delight patients and drive incremental improvements sooner."

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