Why Exceptional Patient Experience is Critical to the Health of Healthcare

As the healthcare industry increases digital touchpoints and capabilities, healthcare consumers are becoming more engaged and are demanding an improved patient experience. That includes making interactions easier, making more informed, fact-based decisions, and being more proactive in improving their own health. The availability of this richer information provides improved customer insight. Therefore, it not only enhances customer interactions but can also give healthcare organizations near real-time information on patient conditions, improving their ability to respond to patients’ needs faster and enhancing the overall patient care experience.

Many healthcare providers, such as the Cleveland Clinic, are implementing different strategies to improve the patient experience. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) now link reimbursement to performance based on patient-experience metrics. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) already use a 5-star quality rating system to measure Medicare beneficiaries’ experiences with their health plans and healthcare systems. Starting in January 2015, CMS only awarded payments to plans (not providers) with ratings of 4 or higher. Hospitals’ and individual providers’ pay will eventually be partly based on how they are rated by patients. As such, there is little disagreement on the need to focus more on patient satisfaction. But what exactly does that mean?

Strativity Group defines “patient experience” as the sum of all interactions a patient has with a healthcare firm. For the patient experience to move from fragmented touchpoints with individual providers to a truly patient-centered experience, healthcare organizations must improve patient interactions at all touchpoints based on a complete 360-degree view of the patient. This will require that healthcare organizations look at the culture, organization, processes, and technology across their entire organization.

In addition, an improved patient experience doesn’t just improve consumer engagement. It has been empirically proven to correlate to 50% higher hospital profit margins.1 Improved patient experiences don’t just help patients feel better: they help healthcare entities’ bottom lines look better as well.

So, what can healthcare providers do to ensure they provide an improved patient experience? Strativity Group believes that they should focus on the following six activities:

  1. Leverage Patient Insights – Integrate data across the entire continuum of the healthcare spectrum and analyze it to gain valuable insights into populations, utilization trends, and care patterns. These insights can include gaps in care, inefficient use of healthcare services, obstacles blocking patient access, counterproductive lifestyle factors, and engagement preferences.
  2. Empower Healthcare Employees – Train and incentivize patient-facing employees to leverage processes and technology better so that they may provide improved patient experiences.
  3. Focus on Value-based Outcomes in Addition to Patient Interactions – The main goal is improving the healthcare outcome. Value-based healthcare (i.e., the best care at the lowest cost) is here to stay, resulting in quicker recoveries, fewer readmissions, lower infection rates, fewer medical errors, etc.
  4. Digital Ubiquity – Enable digital technologies (e.g., website, portal, mobile) so that patients can more easily engage in their healthcare and providers can monitor chronic patients for improved outcomes.
  5. Make Experiences Effortless – Provide information to patients to help them make the right decisions, obtain care when and where they need it, and make interactions across all touchpoints as consistent and easy as possible. Touchpoints could include patient visits, care management interactions (e.g., calls, emails, SMS, etc.), targeted marketing (e.g., portal, emails, direct mail, etc.), community events, and more.
  6. Innovate & Measure – To move to value-based care, improvements in effectiveness and efficiency will require innovation and the ability to measure the results to determine

An improved patient experience will also include developing touchpoint interaction protocols, such as:

  • Patient education
  • Handling an upcoming patient visit
  • Contacting a patient to discuss various situations
  • Sending multi-channel reminders
  • Multi-channel targeted marketing
  • Providing access to patient assistance services, social workers, and behaviorists

As the healthcare industry shifts towards more value-based care, along with the more ubiquitous use of analytics and greater instances of digital engagement, further opportunities will develop for improved patient experiences via effortless, efficient, and personalized customer experiences and improved patient outcomes.

For more information about how your firm can create improved patient experiences by leveraging analytically-derived insights to enhance business results, please contact David Nash, Senior Director at Strativity Group, at david@strativity.com.

1 Patient Engagement: Happy Patients, Healthy Margins, 2015