The healthcare industry lags behind others when it comes to customer experience; it is a common sentiment shared by many executives in the industry today.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the global initiative to immunize all of our population, has revealed serious gaps in our health care delivery system, particularly apparent now that care is being pushed out of settings. traditional hospitals and in the cloud and at home.
In particular, it highlights the piecemeal and uncoordinated approach taken by many healthcare providers to communicate and interact with their patient population in the right place at the right time. As the federal government begins handing out vaccine doses to pharmacies such as CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens, and Big Tech behemoths like Amazon, Apple and Google step up their focus on the healthcare space – the industry is watching closely to see who will pave the way for the digital transformation of a space that has historically been slow to innovate and deliver a seamless, personalized patient experience.
Most, if not all of the Big Tech players have mastered what it means to deliver a superior customer experience with Net Promoter Scores (NPS) at enviable levels.
A recent report from CBInsights, titled Big Tech in Healthcare, reports that “nearly 40% [of those surveyed] chose Amazon as the tech giant with the biggest impact on healthcare. Why? For starters, it’s because of their reputation and their success in disrupting so many other industries. But it’s also because they have such a sophisticated ability to leverage data to deliver rich and intelligent personalization throughout the customer journey. These personalized experiences have given rise to changing customer expectations: Consumers expect their preferences to be recorded and used to enhance their experience. This also applies to healthcare consumers. Patients now expect their care experience to be like all the other personalized interactions they experience throughout the day, right down to the barista at their local cafe who already knows their order before walking through the door. .
Healthcare must be inspired by the industries that live and breathe the customer experience in order to thrive in today’s environment.
All consumers are health care consumers
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a transformation in healthcare faster than anyone could have imagined. As cases increased, providers saw the need to better serve their communities and deliver the types of personalized experiences that patients have become accustomed to in just about every other aspect of their life, from banking at meals.
But most healthcare leaders have gaps in their current processes, making them vulnerable to network leaks and diminishing their ability to capture market share and revenue. The immunization rollout further underscored the need to have systems in place to communicate with clients quickly and effectively, and to target the right demographics with the right message at the right time.
Healthcare preferences, of course, are more complex than those for coffee or online retail shopping. Patients understand this. Yet they become frustrated with bad patient experiences such as: Why do I have to fill out a paper form when my provider should already have the answers to most of these questions? Why doesn’t my doctor remember the medications I am taking? Why do I have to tell six different people how I feel every day when I am in the hospital? Or that I am lactose intolerant at mealtime?
The point is, many healthcare providers have the ingredients for personalized experiences, they just don’t tap into them.
What hospitals can learn from Amazon
If you think healthcare is too complex to be disrupted in this way, consider the industries already changed by Amazon. Selling books, groceries, shipping, IoT devices, and entertainment have all been impacted by Amazon’s customer-centric approach. Customers have become accustomed to Amazon and Netflix sharing similar customer preferences with them, making the customer feel understood while building brand loyalty and retaining customers.
Customer experience is the foundation on which Amazon has grown its customer base to over 300 million active users. Hospitals are also finding ways to create connected experiences for their patients, offering menu choices each evening for meals the next day, offering more choice in their entertainment options, and pet therapy to brighten their day. . Now that face masks are mandatory at all times during COVID-19, healthcare workers are pinning photos of themselves smiling on their gowns to create a more personal connection. All of this goes a long way towards improving the experience, but stops before the personalization.
The pandemic has shown us that digital technologies can play a bigger role for hospitals to deliver personalized experiences. There are now several ways for providers to communicate with patients, whether through phone messages, emails, text messages, or patient portals. Not all media work for all patients, and hospitals would do well to remember patient preferences here and act on them. All techniques aimed at increasing engagement, even by simply changing the channels of awareness, can involve and invest more patients in their own care.
Vital information should also be stored and shared between providers where possible, so patients don’t have to fill out the same forms over and over again every time they see a doctor. And longitudinal reach and tracking should reduce friction, not increase it; If a hospital is following up an discharged patient through an automated message, for example, that message should include paths for patients to get answers to their questions as well as specific, personalized information to help them in their recovery.
Additionally, healthcare systems should consider how they link patient experiences across the care journey. Does the patient understand our COVID-19 precautions before their appointment? Do we know their preferences in the pharmacy? Is home care an option as a measure against surge capacity? Does the patient have close family members who can act as helpers in the event of home care? Do patients have socio-economic difficulties that may hinder their ability to access or receive the right care?
These are the types of connected and personalized experiences across the patient experience that your community is not only used to, but that will ultimately gain loyalty and improve outcomes.
Healthcare can no longer afford to be complacent. As some health systems began to prioritize the patient experience, COVID-19 has raised the bar. Megatrends such as social, mobile and cloud have befallen the healthcare industry and have led to an explosion of new data that is only just beginning to be exploited. As more digital natives enter the workforce, expectations will continue to rise with a generation that has less affinity with legacy vendors and brands. Integrations, usability and customer experience will be essential at every step of the care journey to ensure the right care is delivered to the right patient, at the right time, in the right setting, and through the right modality.
There are countless other experiences in which we as health leaders need to question and invest. If we don’t do it in the health arena, the Amazons of the world will.
Jim Somers is the Marketing Director of CipherHealth.