There is a saying “the customer is always right” so how does this play out in the health sector when the customer is also the patient? Let’s take a look.
The increasing use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) and software in labs, pharmacies, and other healthcare settings, as well as the growth in data sourced directly from the public through patient reported measures and from the ever-increasing array of personal wearable devices and smartphones has made the healthcare industry one of the most data rich industries out there. Considering how much of this data is directly reporting on consumers, why is it so common to see customer experience lacking in healthcare, and what opportunities are present to improve the customer journey?
We have significant experience in both the healthcare sector and in managing CX transformations putting us in a unique position to break down exactly where the healthcare sector can go wrong. There are three commonly mishandled areas that can create an overall poor experience for people when interacting with the health sector.
Treating the condition – not the patient
The first mistake could be described as an incorrect focus, in a way it is an intense focus on treating the condition. At first it may sound like this would be good for the patient experience, as the purpose of healthcare is to treat and manage medical conditions. So where does this go wrong? The issue here is that it can remove the patient themselves from the equation, essentially reducing them to little more than their condition and making them a number, just another patient. This can lead to poorer care as treatments are prescribed in broad strokes and will leave healthcare providers with a limited understanding of their customers wants, needs, and behaviours.
The relationship between a patient and their healthcare provider extends beyond the realm of single consultations, especially for those with long-term or chronic health conditions. These long-standing engagements often come at the cost of a significant amount of personal time for the patient, as they make many trips in to consult their clinician. For the occasional check-up this travel time doesn’t come at a notable cost, however frequent trips will rapidly add up and wear the patient down. As well as the relationships and communication between healthcare providers and their wider circle of care (family and carers).
Similar to the previous point, a common issue that is present in many customer journeys is fragmentation. The healthcare ecosystem is complex, made up of many equally complex parts and disparate and often disconnected systems. Without any view of the overarching patient journey, it falls on the patient to recall and recount their medical history whenever it is needed by a clinician. It’s also not always easy for clinicians to understand who is in a patient’s wider care team, their relationships and communications with healthcare providers and their wider circle of care (family and carers).
The question is, what is missing from healthcare services that would improve a patients journey through the health system?
A Comprehensive View
One way to simplify the visibility of a patient journey is through the support and usage of shared electronic medical records such as My Health Record (MHR). As an overview of a patient’s medical history, the MHR supports transfer of care by allowing clinicians to view a patient’s medical history, conditions, regular medications, and allergies and helps removes the obligation on the patient to repeat this information. Having this collection of data also allows for significantly more personalised care.
Shifting Focus Towards Personalisation
Perhaps on the most crucial adjustments is shifting the focus towards healthcare that is patient-led or patient-centred. By shifting focus towards the patient, this will help the move from treating the condition to treating the patient.
Through all areas of the health system, patients need to be treated as individuals. Rather than approaching each health journey the same way, providers should tweak existing services to provide patients with a more comfortable experience. These don’t need to be large-scale changes either, simple things, like knowing how the patient prefers to receive communications can go a long way in improving a patient’s experience. This can then be compounded by the tailored service that comes from a comprehensive view of the patient themselves. If a clinician has access to the patient’s medical history, demographic data, and social determinants – such as smoking status and alcohol consumption – they can begin to provide more personalised treatment which will often also provide better health outcomes. Clinicians can also improve their insight into a patient’s experience by measuring what matters to the patient through the use of Patient Reported Measures, questionnaires that allow patients to report on the quality of their experience and their clinical outcomes.
A technology which has proven its worth over the course of the pandemic and can go a long way in improving customer experience is the implementation of telehealth, or virtual care. By providing high-quality telehealth options patients are given even greater ways to access care that suits them. These options provide significantly better accessibility for those in remote communities or have other circumstances that complicate consultation attendance. Consumers value convenience in their experience, reducing the barriers that exist in accessing healthcare by expanding the options to access it greatly improves consumers journeys.
The experience of consumers is just as important in healthcare as it is in any other industry, if not more so given this experience can have an impact on healthcare outcomes. Healthcare is also not immune to the heightening expectations of customers. To fully meet and keep up with these expectations providers must not only stay aware of current digital technologies and how to fully utilise them but how to provide greater, personalised care for their patients.
By Steve Badham, our in-house digital health consultant with a proven track record in scoping, initiating and delivering large and high profile national and state-wide digital health programs. Steve has extensive experience in eHealth, program management, system requirements and business analysis, solution design, health informatics, change management and benefits realisation.