Practical steps to dramatically improve the patient journey and experience

As healthcare becomes more of a consumer market, providers must adapt to transform the experience they offer patients. Those that seize this opportunity will improve the care experience, attract more patients and streamline operations. 

During a virtual featured session sponsored by Change Healthcare as part of Becker's 6th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference, Patrick Drewry, vice president of patient engagement at Change Healthcare, shared insights and practical tips for improving the patient experience and operations.

Four takeaways:

1. Healthcare is becoming more of a consumer-like market, which is transforming how providers interact with patients. Success in today's market recognizes patients as consumers who increasingly "expect healthcare to deliver the same digital convenience, selection and customer service they enjoy in other sectors," Mr. Drewry said.

For revenue cycle leaders, the changing landscape has cascading effects: patients increasingly pay for services out of pocket, leading to shopping for care as consumers. This in turn requires providers to offer more consumer-friendly experiences. To achieve this, health system leaders are working to automate workflows, enhance access for patients and reduce providers' administrative burdens.

2. Healthcare organizations focused on the patient experience are positioned to attract and retain patients. Attracting patients means recognizing that their decisions about providers are based on more than price. Key factors include quality, location and the overall experience. Access and transparency are also crucial. "Our responsibility is not to be a barrier to patients getting the care they need," Mr. Drewry said. "Our responsibility is to get them in the system so they can get the care they need when they're most vulnerable."

Online reviews are vital when patients are choosing providers, making it critical for providers to implement feedback loops. Minimizing friction points for patients is also key. "Patients are more likely to promote a provider if they have had a positive experience with admission or registration," Mr. Drewry said. Financial transparency at the outset sets expectations and helps educate patients about their financial options. Communication also plays an important role in retaining patients, notably an omni-channel approach that respects patients' communications preferences.

3. Transform the patient journey by breaking down silos at key touchpoints. The patient-centered healthcare journey adds the patient's viewpoint to the traditional provider-focused revenue cycle. Breaking down silos at key touchpoints benefits the patient and revenue-cycle performance. Areas of focus include:

- Scheduling: Convenient appointment scheduling is low-hanging fruit with big potential payoffs. "If you are one of the few [providers] that offer the ability to schedule online, you will attract more patients because of the ease of access," Mr. Drewry explained.

- Communications: Providers should offer timely, continuous, omni-channel communications that evolve from appointment reminders to deeper engagement like live chat.

- Mobile intake: This practice became widespread during the pandemic. Its popularity has raised expectations. When mobile intake captures important patient data it also improves the utilization of the workforce, benefiting all.

4. Healthcare organizations that meet consumer expectations simplify payment processes. Since they are paying more out of pocket, patients want a modern payment experience. They resent receiving statements in the mail and having to pay by check. Retail-like, digital, self-service payments are vital to improving collections. "They expect this and if you don't have it, they're either going to go somewhere else or they're just not going to pay," Mr. Drewry said. Improved price transparency, required by regulatory changes, is best paired with navigation support and clear explanations of payment assistance options.

To learn more about the event, click here.

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