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Delivering A Better Patient Experience through Digital Transformation

Delivering A Better Patient Experience through Digital Transformation

  • Product Design /
  • Product Development /
  • Product Led Growth /

Jonathon Hensley

One word that defines healthcare leaders’ attitudes toward patient experience (PX) and digital transformation today is urgency.

Globally, the importance of providing a great patient experience has shifted the healthcare landscape for providers and payers. The pressure to provide quality person-centric care and safety to healthcare consumers, patients, and their families has evolved from a nice to have to necessity. It is also fundamentally changing how we need to think and deliver care to all people within our communities.

Too many organizations look to their close competitors to identify what to do, benchmark their efforts, and validate that their thinking is sufficient. Often this approach to improving the patient experience and innovation falls short of any long-term sustainable benefits if any at all.

In response, executives are more than ever talking about the importance of patient experience and how digital products can aid in improving the offerings of healthcare institutions. It also enables these same healthcare institutions to reimagine how you bring together people, data, and processes.

It is paramount to meeting the needs and expectations of people; an absolute necessity. This is imperative if you want to grow while simultaneously reducing inefficiency and lowering costs.  In our experience and review of industry studies, we have found that most organizations are still struggling to effectively define their digital strategies, alignment across the organization and execute effectively on them. Many have stalled out altogether.

Healthcare leaders across the country who want to make a lasting impact understand there are significant shifts in thinking that have to be embraced, adopted, and supported. This thinking is rooted in strategy, and developing the required capabilities. Let’s break down what needs to be in place when delivering new patient experiences and digital transformation effectively. And further, the shifts in thinking providers and payers are making both internally and with the help of partners.

The Mission Gap: Anchoring Your Patient Experience to Your Purpose

A great strategy defines the value you will create in a succinct and tangible way; where to focus, why, and what it will take to achieve that value. Those that are the most successful in healthcare are mission-driven. In our experience, we have yet to work with anyone from small family practice to multi-billion-dollar healthcare institutions providing the latest in medical research, community care, and education who aren’t mission-driven. However, most strategies are not anchored to the organization’s mission. This is one of the earliest and easiest mistakes to quickly identify.

By anchoring your strategy to your mission, you empower everyone to focus on the right things and determine how to facilitate the delivery of great patient experience and digital products or services.

Having a strategic foundation provides clarity.  It promotes a shared understanding that everyone from executives, doctors, nurses, facilities, patient advocates, etc. must have in place to pursue, and ultimately, achieve the goal. 

Patient Experience Moments Need to be Designed for a Non-Linear Journey

You cannot define where to go, how to get there, and what success looks like if you’re not clear about where you are today. Taking on patient experience and digital transformation starts with having a clear picture of where you are today. In many cases, the challenge is that internal teams are too close to the work,  and there are new capabilities and tools that need to be introduced to complete this work successfully.

One common scenario we see is a rough mapping of the patient journey. This journey is usually linear and is focused on the stages of diagnosis and treatment. While this perspective is valuable it doesn’t provide the insight necessary to identify new areas of opportunity or understand what it might take to change and innovate how things are done today. A patient’s experience is not a linear flow but a system of intricate progressions.

The established skills around design, system, and platform thinking add a different level of fidelity and insight essential to the success of each initiative. Let’s look at a scenario to help illustrate this complex system a patient and their family navigate.

Take the example of a child who gets cancer. Imagine it’s a little girl, Molly, 7 yrs old who has a pain in her leg; she doesn’t know why, maybe it was from the soccer game the day before, but thinks it will go away. A few weeks later, she tells her mother that the pain hasn’t gone away. The mother doesn’t know what to make of it– seems like a minor thing– it takes a little bit of time before the mother decides to make an appointment with their family physician. The general practitioner says, “I don’t know what it is, let’s get an x-ray.” You have to go and make another appointment to go get an x-ray. Then the x-ray has to be read by a radiologist, then the radiologist calls up the family physician. The family physician calls up the mother and says, “We need to schedule a time where you can come in and we can talk about Molly,” and then have the appointment, “The x-ray didn’t provide anything conclusive, we don’t know why she is in so much pain, we think you should get a biopsy — take a little sample of tissue.” So Molly’s mother goes off to get another appointment, have a biopsy taken, then the sample has to go to the clinic and has to be read by a clinician. Then he calls back to the family doctor who calls you back and you go in and you’re told, “We’re concerned… it doesn’t look good. We think you need to get Molly an MRI.” You schedule ANOTHER appointment, then you get an MRI and yet another consultation. “Well, it looks like it could be cancer, so let’s send you to an oncologist, a cancer specialist.” A pediatric oncologist because let’s not forget that Molly is only 7 yrs old. Yet another series of appointments and finally they decide that Molly has cancer and now they have to decide how to treat it. This entire sequence of events is just the beginning. Now there has to be a decision about treatment, including additional appointments, new specialists that are introduced, all while Molly and her family’s lives are being turned upside down.

This entire sequence isn’t linear, it’s a system of intricate steps and repeated loops that make up moments in their journey. Every single moment from one person to another, or one specialist to another; one clinic to another; for that matter, if you were in the hospital, when the shift changes, one shift to another. Every transition is an opportunity to improve the patient experience.

You can make incredible improvements to the patient experience when you step back and look at it as a system. A system that was never designed intentionally from the ground up to deliver the best quality care with clarity for how we should care for Molly and her family during this very difficult time.

If you look at most Healthcare organization’s websites, mobile apps, or other digital touchpoints you can see this impact first hand. How many are built for the patient vs. the institution? This is not a criticism but some of the most immediate opportunities that all providers and payers have are right in front of them.

Digital Products are the New Front Door of Healthcare

There needs to be a shift in thinking. Today a website and mobile app are essential tools that go far beyond providing information, they are part of the service delivery ecosystem that must be approached differently. Highlighting this point are the common goals of increasing patient engagement, systems integration, regulation compliance, recruitment, and self-service enablement to name just a few. Your website and mobile app are the front door to your organization and companion to support the entire patient journey and their experience. When you amplify patient engagement the people across your organization also become better stewards in their daily work, propelling the mission forward.  

Making this transition can be daunting for some. You may be searching for answers to the following:

  • Where do you start?
  • What will it take to do it right?
  • What do we need to do to address all of our different audiences?
  • What does the approach look like?
  • What will it take to not just create a new website or mobile app, but operationalize it?
  • What are the best practices we should follow?
  • What should be measured to show progress?   

These are all great questions. And, merely a handful of the questions that emerge once we dig into things. If you truly want to differentiate yourself and provide the best solution,  it begins with anchoring your strategy to your organization’s mission. When you have established a strategy that reinforces your mission it is critical to map the current state of your patient experience. Where and how do your digital touchpoints intersect with the offline experience. Shift your thinking from an individual project toward the product development lifecycle need to set your organization up for success. Keep your focus on moments in the patient experience that matter most to embark on a true transformation. This is profoundly important because when we see providers or payers are trying to do it all at once things typically stall out.  Let’s consider just a few of the moments you might consider, and the role your website and a mobile app can play:

  • Discovering your organization
    • Consumer engagement vs. patient engagement
  • Evaluating your organization: reputation, services offered, accessibility
  • Scheduling an appointment and preparing for an appointment 
  • Traveling to an appointment, arriving on site,  registration (Checking-In)
  • Onsite way-finding and access to onsite amenities and services 
  • Secure patient portal access (messaging, test results, medical records, etc)  
  • Bill Pay
  • Post appointment next steps/follow up

The patient experience is comprised of all of these moments, and many more. When executed soundly we succeed in helping them, and their families navigate their situation with empathy. Do they feel peace of mind? Do they feel like everyone is doing everything they can to help them?  Do they feel everyone is working together, communicating effectively, and authentically? These are huge drivers of growth and cost reduction. 

Embrace the Changes that are Sweeping Through Healthcare

Every healthcare organization can provide a great patient experience today. What is required is to anchor your mission and strategy, shift to seeing the experience as a system, and build empathy with your patients. This clarity and focus are essential to delivering high value and impactful solutions in the moments that matter. 

At Emerge we’re committed to helping clients be at the forefront of this thinking, to support their commitment to their communities and move forward with certainty, bring new insights, processes and best practices to each step of the process. 

Forward. Digital. Thinking.

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