In a Crowded Healthcare Industry, Stand Out with Stellar Patient Experience

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Not that long ago, people had limited options when seeking healthcare: they went to their primary care doctor or, for more emergent needs, the local hospital. But these days, patients have a growing number of additional options: walk-in care centers, clinics located within retail pharmacies – even Amazon has entered the healthcare landscape.

As competition grows, so too are consumer expectations, meaning healthcare organizations must offer superior patient experience to stay relevant. Patients are increasingly savvy, and the healthcare industry needs to catch up, experts say.

“(Consumers) want things to be simple, they want things to be easy,” and they want a personalized experience, said Karen Andrews, vice president of customer experience and communications at TTEC during a recent CCW webinar, The Future of Patient Experience. “Of all the industries, healthcare is the most difficult [in which] to make that happen, yet we’re seeing those are the expectations of our consumers.”

Focus on the Patient Journey

“As the demographics are shifting in healthcare, people are coming armed with more knowledge,” said Stephanie Clark, chief learning officer at Tennessee-based Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corp. “They’re researching, they’re looking at what they need to know, they’re coming with options and they want to be involved in their care – and they’re demanding that we meet their expectations.”

Now that patients have more options to choose from, she added, “We’re going to have to either shift of we’re going to lose business.”

To offer a great patient experience, providers have to bring services and information to patients the way they want to receive them. And that, increasingly, is digital.

Among healthcare consumers, 86 percent of people who have access to online portals use them entirely for all their communications, and 90 percent use mobile apps when they’re made available. Nearly one-third, or 30 percent, have used an app to communicate with their providers in real time.

“That’s the way the world is going, and healthcare is going to need to pick up the pace to meet those expectations,” said Dr. Mark Kestner, chief medical officer at TractManager, a company that helps meet the infrastructure needs of hospitals and physician groups.

Investing in an omnichannel approach that focuses on the patient journey not only benefits patients, but will also pay dividends for healthcare organizations over the long term. Research has found that 86 percent of consumers, across all industries, will pay more for a better experience.

Patient Experience Starts with Employee Experience

To provide an optimal patient experience, organizations need to start by turning inward and focusing on their employees. How employees feel about their work and their employer – and whether they see it as an extension of themselves, or merely a means to a paycheck – can have a direct impact on patient experience.

As Clark puts it: “Unless your employees’ needs are met, they cannot begin to meet the needs of patients.”

Organizations should assess where teams thrive, where they struggle, and whether they even function as cohesive teams to begin with. Too often, Kestner said, employees tend to operate in separate silos, even within the same organization.

“Are the physicians part of the team? And do they see that the nurses are an extension of their practice? That is a very important point that you sort of have to observe first, and not just assume that physicians are part of the team,” he said.

Leaders should be transparent with their employees, Clark added. Explain to them what goals are and how the organization plans to meet them, and ask them how they feel about that. Employee feedback should be solicited regularly, and leaders should use that information to inform their processes, she said.

In an increasingly technical world, it’s also critical to embrace technology in a feasible way that will work for your organization. Technology tools and their resulting processes, if they’re ever going to be successfully embraced, need to be as simple as possible, Kestner advised.

Equally important is leaders’ willingness to accept feedback and, when necessary, tweak processes or change course, he said.

“You have to be willing, as a leader, to abandon what you thought was going to be the next great idea,” Kestner said. If it’s not meeting a team’s needs, make adjustments.

For patients and employees alike, he added, “Everyone wants to have a voice and they want to be heard.”

To hear more from Clark, Kestner and Andrews as they discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the healthcare industry when it comes to patient experience, watch the full webinar, “The Future of Patient Experience.”