It’s nothing new for businesses – even healthcare organizations – to evaluate how they are doing in the eyes of customers; but in healthcare, the “patient experience” has taken on greater meaning. It’s no longer just the healthcare developer community, user interface (UI) experts, or a single healthcare administrator talking about the importance of the patient’s overall experience. Everyone from the Chief Quality Officer and CFO to front-line caregivers are focused on ways to improve quality and make things better, faster, and easier for patients and their families. The reason is clear: patient satisfaction is closely connected to quality of care, and better outcomes improve quality scores, reputations, finances, and attract patients and physicians. The challenge is if I don’t feel like I was treated in a good way, even though my medical care may have been technically good, my feedback on a provider or their score will be bad.
Working with mobile and cloud innovations and with many disruptors in the healthcare industry, I have seen more than a glimpse into the different ways to make this experience better. And as a prosumer of healthcare, and a gadget guy who carries three devices at any given time, I see a path to helping providers deliver not just a medical procedure, but also the experience and services that I (or people like me) expect when it comes to receiving high-quality care.
3 secrets to improving the patient experience
1. Evolve the practice of medicine to recognize that patients want more information, and that interaction needs to come quickly and digitally. For most, information about clinical assessments and recommendations is top of mind, but that’s not all. If you really ask patients what they want, they’ll say the ability to look up information and access their medical records on their smartphone, as well as being able to pay their bills on their mobile devices. It’s about being better connected.
2. Technology can enhance medical care, but not with extra clicks or drop-down menus that replace eye contact with patients. This is a timeless expectation, and striking that balance is getting very hard for physicians (read: “I will not let a computer come between me and my patient”). A recent patient survey commissioned by Nuance reinforces that these two can live harmoniously: in fact, 69 percent of people have noticed a difference in the amount of technology used by doctors in the last five years, and 97 percent are comfortable with it. The problem is with “how” it is used, and this creates great opportunities to incorporate technology in ways that both help deliver better care and keep patients satisfied, for example, showing X-rays on a tablet or YouTube videos to educate patients in the room.
I know that the health information technology (HIT) field exists in order to help physicians interact with technology in intuitive ways, whether that it is a hospital or practice using voice recognition, mobile EHR apps, single sign-on, or something else. However, patients like me expect HIT to be an enhancer, something that makes the cumbersome administrative tasks easier, so interacting with technology does not trump the quality connection between patients and physicians.
3. Engage with patients meaningfully outside of the single clinical visit. With stats indicating up to 80% of patients saying they feel engaged in managing their own health, most people are not going to expect a ‘one and done’ experience with their physicians. As patients assume more responsibility for paying a portion of their care, and providers assume more risk and accountability for what patients do outside their office or the hospital, the two will need to be more connected and the ability to communicate with physicians outside of an office visit will be a big patient satisfier. Using different members of the healthcare team and new channels to communicate with patients about their care will round out this experience to make it more complete and more rewarding.
Patients are increasingly becoming more informed consumers, that new hip and the multitude of visits and interactions that go with it, all determine the “patient experience.” Helping doctors deliver on those expectations in a system that often seems stacked against them is not as easy as it sounds. It’s time to protect the patient-physician relationship; a foundational element of quality care.