by Matt Durski
Healthcare organizations face an array of challenges including regulatory, clinical, and financial complexities, price transparency, and data interoperability. These factors and more have complicated the healthcare model so much that it has become increasingly difficult for patients to easily communicate with their payers and providers. Moreover, experiences consumers are having in industries outside of healthcare are increasing their expectations for healthcare engagements. Consumers are used to seamless, omnichannel experiences in their personal shopping lives, and they are carrying those expectations with them into healthcare.
Our Omnichannel Healthcare Experience Report found that 71% of patients want their experiences with healthcare providers to be as easy as their interactions with non-healthcare brands in their lives. Unfortunately, the current state of healthcare isn’t measuring up, according to the 68% of respondents who said their providers need to improve their patient interactions.
As patient and member preferences evolve, healthcare organizations can and should redefine how they serve their customers. In the case of healthcare communication, we’ve learned that ease of use is a major barrier. 42% of patients selected “It requires a lot of effort to connect with them” when identifying barriers of communication with their healthcare providers.
Barriers to Communication
Barriers to communication can surface across many areas of business. Consider how your channels, content, and timing impact your communication.
33% of our respondents said that a major barrier to communication with their healthcare provider was a lack of options. In today’s landscape, consumers expect to have a range of choices when it comes to reaching out to a brand, including via phone, email, chatbots, and mobile apps.
We found that channel preferences often varied by generation, with Baby Boomers preferring in-person or phone communication, and Millennials and Gen Z being more open to apps, chatbots, and other digital offerings. Thus, if you want to reach all your customers, across demographics, it’s essential to build an omnichannel strategy.
Take a closer look at the channels you offer and assess whether you’re meeting your patients’ needs. Check in with your patients often to discover how they’d prefer to communicate with you and consider whether you’re meeting them where they are. Think about how you engage with non-healthcare brands and bring those exceptional experiences back to healthcare.
Healthcare content is often complex by nature, but that doesn’t mean it should be unnecessarily academic. Whether it’s an explanation of benefits, a pamphlet about a particular medical condition, or even a hospital map, make sure that the materials you provide your customers are as easy to understand as possible.
The content you provide to patients and members is intended to educate and inform, so it needs to be digestible. Review your current content to assess whether you’re explaining the concepts in ways that people can easily understand and make adjustments if necessary. For those with questions, document their journey to ensure they can easily connect with self-service tools or live agents to get their questions answered.
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Finally, it’s important to understand your patients’ and members’ experiences in as close to real time as possible. This means conducting surveys immediately after an interaction – 30 days post discharge is far too late.
In order to gain a holistic and thorough perspective of your customers’ experience and their satisfaction with the ease of doing business with you, it’s crucial to gather feedback while the experience is still fresh. Consider sending an SMS survey to their phone before they’ve reached their car. Push out an email survey to them within minutes of answering their EOB questions. Utilize your mobile app to perform a real-time check-in during their stay.
How Healthcare Organizations Can Make Doing Business With Them Easier
In an industry as complex as healthcare, it's important to keep things simple.
Regular reviews of the channels you offer and communications between your employees, patients, and members can help ensure that you’re not veering into overcomplication. Check that every interaction is as simple as it can possibly be and streamline when necessary.
To address timing issues, consider investing in a Voice of the Customer strategy and collect feedback in real time, even if you already analyzed customer perspectives prior to the pandemic. The landscape has changed in the past year and a half, and a new evaluation of your customers’ journeys will be essential to keep up with the changing demands in Healthcare 3.0.
As a consumer accustomed to making one-click Amazon purchases from my smartphone, healthcare falls short in meeting my needs because they lag behind in customer technology.Respondent, Age 18-24
Why Healthcare Is Falling Behind
The healthcare industry isn’t behind the curve because they don’t care about their patients and members, but rather because they haven’t prioritized patient and member experiences in order to serve their customers. In the past, simply taking care of patients’ physical needs was enough. The pandemic, entry of traditional retailers into healthcare, and competition from innovative companies has forced many healthcare organizations to evolve to consider experience and convenience as basic requirements as well.
This push is a good thing, even though it may not seem that way at first. One Avtex healthcare client was planning to deploy telehealth to nine of their clinical service lines in 2020. After experiencing the impact of the pandemic, they deployed telehealth capabilities to all their divisions in just seven weeks.
Industries like retail, hospitality, and technology are raising the bar when it comes to customer experience. The time for the healthcare industry to catch up is now.
In the new landscape of consumer-driven care, patients and members are driven by ease of use and convenience. Consumers have numerous options that they may find to be more convenient than visiting their primary care provider. For example, they may visit a nearby CVS pharmacy for a cold, have their medicine delivered by Amazon, or choose a care-at-home option for a physical check-up. The healthcare organizations that focus on making it easier for patients and members to engage with them will attract new patients and build loyal ones, while those who remain stagnant will fall behind.
Fortunately, change is possible, and Avtex is committed to helping healthcare organizations understand how to improve. Ultimately, it’s up to your organization to embrace change, Avtex is standing by to act as your trusted partner. With our help, you can thoroughly evaluate the needs of your patients, and implement the right technology to drive lifelong loyalty, increase revenue, and improve healthcare outcomes.