Patients are increasingly becoming “health consumers”. The reality that health providers face is that their services are often comparable, and that consumers do just that: discuss and review cost, perceived value and indeed the end-to-end experience, often very publicly on social media. Societal and technological shifts have changed people’s expectations when it comes communication, service, and value. The financial stability and growth potential of healthcare organizations is now increasingly dependent on consumers: what they believe and how they act.
How successfully health companies engage with their patients is becoming a predictor of how well they will adapt to the consumerization trend. The “Amazon Prime” mindset, which prioritizes service, value and speed, might seem at odds with most (traditional) health systems, which are often bureaucratic, slow and too often, costly, but it actually presents health companies with an opportunity for better engagement and competitive differentiation.
One thing health companies have a lot of is data. Learning how to control and analyze these vast amounts of data could hold the key to unlocking better value for consumers in terms of improved outcomes and improved engagement, but also in terms of operational and other efficiencies. However, for many healthcare companies, pivoting their systems to deliver patient-centric care will mean that they will need to up their game technologically.
When it comes to the consumerization of care, what can healthcare companies do to get ahead of this trend, improve the way they leverage digital to engage with consumers and the way they operate as businesses?
#1. Elevate the patient experience
Great customer experience often involves condensing a hugely complex network of options down to a deceptively simple system that allows consumers get where they need to be quickly and intuitively. In healthcare, the array of options in terms of patient request, potential ailments and resulting treatments is huge. Getting it wrong can have negative, serious health consequences. Intelligent triage and smart scheduling are just two ways that health companies can improve how they engage with their patients.
Intelligent, AI-based triage ensures that a patient’s initial interaction with the health company is as efficient and useful to the patient as possible. There’s been a huge spike in ED intelligent triage in accelerated by the pandemic, but this tool does not need to be confined to emergency situations. Intelligent triage starts with enabling patients to make contact in a way that most suits them (smartphone, landline, text, desktop or via a virtual assistant). From there, a patient’s identity is verified and the system collects relevant information about their condition before recommending the most appropriate channel to resolve the inquiry.
Smart scheduling completes the initial intelligent triage phase with an appropriate action. This could be booking an appointment, something relating to claims or prescriptions, or recommendations for ongoing self-care. In cases where appointments are required, these can of course be in person, but where appropriate on video, over a chat platform or by phone. Crucially, all the information from this virtual encounter is entered into the patient chart to ensure a complete and up-to-date view of the patient.
Rethinking the patient experience in this way delivers much more convenient, quick and streamlined engagement. It also reaps big benefits for health organizations, like this major US healthcare provider who saved 20% on costs due to the elimination of manual processes, resource allocation and SLA for reporting data availability.
#2. Address the evolving needs of patients
Healthcare companies can leverage digital technologies to deliver care in ways that are new, more convenient and can result in better outcomes. On-demand care addresses health consumers’ expectations around convenience and customer service. Another way is increasing virtual care provision, which actually consists of much more than conducting a doctor’s appointment virtually. Coordinated virtual care begins pre-visit with smart scheduling, appointment reminders and ensuring all the necessary information is in the hands of the patient and clinician. This could include labs reports or vitals screening that needs to be performed in advance. The virtual visit itself might be conducted by phone, video call or conversational UI. The physician will have all meeting and health records at their fingertips, be able to perform virtual exams and call on data from wearable and other connected medical devices.
Post-visit, follow-ups are handled virtually and automated, as well as prescription sharing, billing and claims management and health maintenance planning. You can see how this works in practice by taking a look at how we helped a major US healthcare provider create a fully automated virtual system to manage care interactions, minimizing the need for patient visits to the hospital, reducing waiting times for appointments, eliminating human errors in the information gathering process and enriching the overall care experience.
#3. Drive convenience through technology
Many patients are already familiar with consumer health wearables such as fitness trackers and smart watches. These and other devices can be used by physicians to monitor and treat patients. Devices include clinical-grade monitors, ingestible sensors, implantable devices and in-clinic devices, where data can be sent directly from the patient to the care setting without the need of additional interventions from the patient. Apexon has deep and varied expertise with MedTech IoT. For example, FDA-compliant ingestibles from Proteus, the Willow wearable breast pump, or the electronic device for tremor management from Cala Health.
#4. Make better use of health data to improve outcomes
Medical data is growing at 36 percent CAGR through 2025, thanks in part to the many connected devices now available to patients. While this might initially present as an IT headache for health organizations struggling to get to grips with the volumes of data, when this data is properly collected and engineered, it could lead to major breakthroughs.
From the patient perspective, health data can be harnessed for early disease detection, risk predictions, context-dependent coaching for disease management, behavioural health applications and patient safety monitoring, as well as enabling streamlined, integrated virtual care. From the provider perspective, AI/ML augments providers’ capabilities for clinical decisions in many ways. For example, with patient diagnosis, identification with high risk of readmission, defining thresholds for normal lab results, automation of processes, analysis of radiology images, dictation and clinical note prescriptions and even in identifying cases of insurance fraud.
Apexon has applied a “digital first” approach across the healthcare spectrum with customer engagements that improve patient care and customer satisfaction. With more customer success stories than we can cover in one blog, we’ve seen first-hand the positive impact digital technologies are having on the healthcare industry. A trend like health consumerism is a clear opportunity for health organizations to extend and improve customer engagement, outcomes and operational efficiencies. If you have a digital health challenge, we’ll help you solve it. Contact us or Just fill in the form below.